Lions, cheetahs and leopards could be extinct in 15 years, researchers say

The two arrived in London in early July to inaugurate a photo exhibition on wildlife, a project supported by National Geographic.

The two studied lions, leopards and cheetahs in what has been their natural environment for almost 30 years and have seen these species disappear in time.

“There were 450,000 lions when we were born and now there are only 20,000 worldwide,” Dereck says.

“Leopards have declined from 700,000 to 50,000, cheetahs from 45,000 to 12,000 and tigers are down from 50,000 to just 3,000,” his wife Beverly adds.

If things advance at this pace, it is possible that our grandchildren will only see these animals in pictures. Even species like elephants, buffaloes, zebras and antelopes are endangered.

“We’re expecting mass extinctions of big cats within 10 or 15 years unless something is done about it,” Dereck says.

He seeks support from African governments to change legislation, without which their efforts would be fruitless.

“Every year, 600 male lions are taken legally in safari hunts in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia – seven countries in total,” Beverly adds. “You can shoot leopards in all those countries too, and 2,000 a year become a legal hunting trophy.”

With the support of National Geographic magazine, the couple studied big cats for a quarter century and hope that these species will still exist when they retire.