Lions, tigers, and bears seem like they can take care of themselves, right? Big teeth, big claws, top of the food chain, the whole deal.
Not so easy, scientists say. A new study published this week in Science tells us that 31 big predators need more protection than they are getting. Three-quarters of them are losing population, and 61 percent are listed as "threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
And they are being pushed out of their homes. Lions now only roam 17 percent of the land they once did. The Eurasian lynx has lost almost all of its territory.
These predators deserve to be protected for their own sakes, but they also play vital roles in their ecosystems. As lions disappear in West Africa, for example, baboon populations are exploding (and baboons basically destroy everything, everywhere). The loss of large predators can change environments in unpredictable ways, because, as the researchers write in Science, "we have only just begun to understand the influences of these animals in the fabric of nature."
So here are the 31 big furry predators that need our help, grouped by their biological families: Canidae, Felidae, Mustelidae, Ursidae, and Hyaenidae.
1) Gray wolf (Canis lupus)
2) Red Wolf (Canis rufus)
3) Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)
4) African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)
5) Dhole (Cuon alpinus)
6) Dingo (Canis dingo)
7) Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis)
8) Tiger (Panthera tigris)
9) Lion (Panthera leo)
10) Jaguar (Panthera onca)
11) Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
12) Leopard (Panthera pardus)
13) Puma (Puma concolor)
14) Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)
15) Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
16) Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi)
17) Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)
18) Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)
19) Giant Otter (Preronura brasiliensis)
20) Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)
21) Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
22) Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
23) Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
24) American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
25) Andean Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
26) Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus)
27) Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)
28) Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)
29) Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
30) Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)
31) Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena)