Our work covers both the iconic big cats and some of the smaller wild cats, which is outlined here.
Panthera tigris, the largest of the world’s cats, is the heart and soul of Asia’s jungles – and the dominant predator in every ecosystem it inhabits. For millennia they’ve stood as an iconic symbol of power and courage, woven into culture, religion, folklore and ritual. Tigers are also the most endangered big cat. A century ago, more than 100,000 roamed 30 Asian nations. They’ve disappeared from 93 percent of their historic range, hanging on in 10 countries. An estimated 5,000 wild tigers remain, split among five subspecies. A sixth exists only in captivity. However, tigers are resilient. With targeted conservation strategies and focused efforts to combat poaching, deforestation, and human-tiger conflict, Indochinese tigers are rebounding in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex and Bengal tigers are thriving in parts of India. Steve Winter and Sharon Guynup have covered tigers for two decades, producing numerous stories for National Geographic, The New York Times and other outlets. Their undercover investigations into captive tiger tourism venues revealed its role in feeding illegal trade that is poaching some of the world’s last wild tigers. They coauthored the book Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cat.
• Sharon Guynup and Steve Winter’s investigations into wildlife trafficking of captive tigers helped shut down Thailand’s Tiger Temple and gained U.S. Congressional support for legislation regulating private ownership of big cats.
• Sharon’s New York Times Sunday Review article identified the buyers in the high-end market for tiger products: Asia’s wealthy, business executives and government officials and a Conservation Science and Practice article quantified illegal tiger imports into the U.S.
• Mike McGovern worked on the film The Hidden Tiger unpacking the American tiger crises and has conducted research tiger populations and tiger tourism across Southeast Asia.
Few animals embody the raw power of the lion, a regal cat renowned for its strength. But In Africa, these cats are in freefall, their numbers declining by 50 percent in 20 years. The remaining 20,000 African lions survive mostly within protected areas, absent from 95 percent of their historic range. The last 700 Asiatic lions live clustered in one group in Gujarat, India. In films, articles, research and Alex Braczkowski’s numerous peer reviewed studies, the Big Cat Voices team examines the threats that face lions and all wild cats––from the loss of lands they inhabit and the prey they eat to poaching for the black market wildlife trade and the impacts of climate change. The team also focuses on conservation solutions. Alex’s research helped create an accurate method of counting the last lion populations, replacing approaches that overestimated numbers. Steve photographed the rewilding of lions from South Africa to Malawi, where they’d disappeared decades before. Working with Alex Braczkowski, he documented “lion farms” that raise cats for the trophy hunting industry. 1In films, articles and research, the team is documenting how protecting lion landscapes help secure the livelihoods of some 300 million rural in sub-Saharan Africa––and supply water to regions hard-hit by climate change-driven drought.
• Steve Winter co-produced a Disney+ film on Uganda’s unique tree-climbing lions.
• Bertie Gregory shot and produced a show on lions as part of the Epic Adventures of Bertie Gregory TV series currently airing on Disney+.
• Steve will soon begin a story about the last Asiatic lions in India.
The elusive cougar––the cat with over 40 names, including puma, mountain lion and panther––has the largest range of any wild land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Its territory spans 28 countries from the Canadian Yukon to Southernmost South America. Though it is not on the endangered list, some populations are threatened; others are gone. In some places, it’s legal to hunt them. Steve Winter’s 15-month camera-trapping project in Los Angeles made one cat, P-22, a celebrity when he captured an image of him in front of the famous Hollywood sign. P-22 became the face of an effort to connect habitat for the seriously threatened cougars surviving in scraps of habitat bisected by freeways. October 22 is now P-22 Day in L.A., there is a permanent exhibit about California cougars in the L.A. Museum of Natural History, and urban wildlife.
• Steve Winter’s images of P-22 helped create California’s first wildlife overpass and the world’s largest: The state broke ground on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing on Earth Day 2022, which will span the eight-lane 101 Freeway.
• Filmmaker Bertie Gregory documented pumas in Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park for the David Attenborough series Seven Worlds, One Planet and is shooting in Patagonia for his next project.
• Bertie, Steve and Sharon Guynup are about to begin a project examining how climate change-driven wildfires in the U.S. West are impacting cougars and their prey.
Living high in the mountains of central Asia, the snow leopard endures some of the harshest weather conditions on Earth. Except for mothers with cubs, this elusive cat is solitary, often called the “ghost cat.” It remains the least understood of all the big cats. Because it’s rarely seen, hunts at night, dawn or dusk, and ranges widely, the snow leopard is difficult to count and there is little hard data on their numbers. Estimates range from 2,710 to 3,386 mature individuals. Numbers are decreasing. Humans pose the greatest threat to their survival, especially poachers who target them for the illegal Asian wildlife trade. Conflict is also a serious concern: Because snow leopards sometimes predate livestock, farmers often retaliate by killing them. Steve Winter camped out for three months at 15,000 feet (5,000 m) in India’s Hemis National Park to capture snow leopard’s secret behaviors, the lives of the people who share the mountains with them and document successful conservation efforts protecting them.
• Steve Winter’ snow leopard story for National Geographic Magazine earned BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and World Press Photo Nature Story awards; the pictures were exhibited worldwide, education millions about snow leopards.
• Steve helped launch programs that vaccinate livestock and protect them in predator-proof corrals––with agreements from farmers to protect snow leopards.
• An upcoming project will delve into how climate change is impacting snow leopards and their prey.
Nine subspecies of leopards roam the planet from South Africa to Siberia. They are the most arboreal and adaptable of all wild felines, colonizing environments from deserts and savannahs to tropical forest and an opportunist with a broad palate and vast home ranges. Meanwhile, it is possibly the most persecuted. The farmers, ranchers and local people who live beside leopards target them: They are dangerous to both livestock and people. Wildlife traffickers fetch high prices for their spotted skins, claws, canines and other parts. Men still wear leopard pelts in some African cultural traditions. Numbers are dwindling rapidly, with populations often confined to fragmented pockets. Seven subspecies are endangered or critically endangered; the Indian and African leopards are listed as vulnerable one step away. Leopards need media and conservation, and three Big Cat Voices founders have worked on telling their story.
• Steve Winter’s leopard story for National Geographic Magazine covered both the threats facing leopards and successful conservation solutions.
• Bertie Gregory collaborated with Steve to produce a documentary on the leopards that live in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, located within Mumbai, India, a city of 21 million people.
Pound-for pound, the jaguar is the strongest cat, with a bite force nearly three times more powerful than a lion. There are no subspecies: The jaguar is the same cat from the U.S.-Mexican border to Argentina, though the largest live in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. Steve Winter has covered jaguars for more than two decades across the Americas. He worked in the field with famed cat biologist Alan Rabinowitz, documenting an ongoing international effort to build a range-wide jaguar corridor stretching across their entire range. Steve produced the first-ever jaguar story for National Geographic Magazine in 2000. At the time, ranchers killed every jaguar they saw, blaming them for cattle losses. Collaborating with biologist Sandra Cavalcanti, who fitted cats with GPS collars, they proved and published data refuting that claim. Steve also showed that the Pantanal is the only place people can readily see wild jaguars, sparking a thriving ecotourism business. His second follow-up feature in 2017, documented how jaguar numbers have risen substantially there—and reported new threats, with cats poached for the Asian wildlife trade and increasing wildfire risk.
• Bertie Gregory and Steve Winter co-produced a jaguar film for Nat Geo WILD TV documenting jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal.
• Sharon Guynup worked with Steve on cover stories for Smithsonian, BBC Wildlife and other publications on the jaguar corridor initiative.
• Mike McGovern is currently working on a story covering the complicated relationship between jaguars, cattle ranching, and the fire cycle in the Brazilian Pantanal.
The world’s fastest cat has struggled to outrun decreasing genetic diversity as African cheetah habitat shrinks, herders cull them, and poachers sell cubs for a thriving Middle Eastern pet trade. Asiatic cheetah numbers have dipped below 100 individuals. However, cheetahs are being successfully rewilded in Africa and a new initiative has brought cheetahs back to India after local extinction some 70 years ago. A program in Namibia has successfully raised and released dozens of orphan cubs into the wild. These are some of the issues Big Cat Voices founders plan to cover in the near future.
• Bertie Gregory documented cheetahs and other wild cats for BBC’s Big Cats TV miniseries.
• Big Cat Voices is in discussions about a cheetah story and a documentary film.
Three subspecies of long-legged, tufted-eared lynx pad silently, mostly at night, through forests in North America, Europe and Asia: the Canadian, Eurasian––and the Iberian, which is among the world’s most endangered felines.
• Steve Winter, Sharon Guynup and Mike McGovern have received a grant from the National Geographic Society to photograph and report on the interactions between predators in the Northeastern United States, including lynx and bobcats.
• The team is also exploring how climate change is impacting the ecosystem, the cats and their prey. The project includes camera-trapping, fieldwork, magazine articles and a possible film.
• An upcoming collaboration with colleagues may cover conservation strategies to save the Eurasian and Iberian lynx.
Ocelots, which possess both aerial and aquatic prowess, are the top predator for smaller prey across Central and South America. Like all cats, they are under threat from loss of habitat and poaching, but also from increasing heat, drought and wildfires. Steve Winter has photographed ocelots during decades of work in Latin America, though there has been little research on these cats—until now. Big Cat Voices have projects in the pipeline to cover these smaller, largely overlooked cats.
• Planned work includes coverage of community education programs to minimize wildfires that injure and kill ocelots, other animals (including their prey), and obliterate forested habitat.
• We are in discussion with a large conservation organization to follow new, in-depth studies of ocelots, their range, prey, status and the threats that face them, efforts that will inform targeted conservation.
• Wildlife biologists have discovered that 50 – 80 ocelots still survive in Texas, split between two populations. They are the last ocelots in the United States, and this population is endangered. We will cover efforts to protect them.