The National Geographic Society is supporting its Big Cats Initiative with help from everyday cats. Its Little Kitties for Big Cats initiative lets cat owners show off their cats while helping to sponsor efforts to slow declining lion populations.
The Big Cats Initiative supports on-the-ground conservation projects, education and economic incentive efforts and a global public-awareness campaign. The program kick-started last December with Big Cats Week on Nat Geo WILD.
The Big Cats Initiative was created in part by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence who for more than 25 years have lived and worked in Africa documenting lions in the wild. Last year, they released the film The Last Lions in conjunction with the Big Cats Initiative.
Lions are at the center of the initiative’s first phase. National Geographic hopes to halt lion population decline by the year 2015 and to restore populations to sustainable levels by 2020. Nearly 1.5 million lions existed two millennia ago. In the 1940s, lion numbers were estimated at 450,000; today, lion populations might total as few as 20,000 lions.
“Little kitties have already funded one lion conservation project,” according to BCI Program Director Luke Dollar. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could double the number by the end of the year?”
With a donation of $5, cat owners can add their cat’s photo to the growing gallery. Each week, a “Little Kitty of the Week” is selected and showcased. Cats can also be named “Top Kitty” on the site. The scientific and educational group hopes to meet the goal of 10,000 cat photos.
To participate, cat owners can visit the group’s website here.