A cat is the most popular pet on the planet. They are beloved members of millions of households, and countless others strayed or abandoned are flourishing independently outdoors. These cats pose serious threats to rodents, birds, and other small animals. As familiar as they are, people don’t know that the house cat has 38 truly wild distant relatives. These distinct species live in exotic places that most of us will never visit, but some species live within or around cities and villages in many parts of the globe. They include not only the world’s biggest cats, the tiger, the iconic king of the jungle, the lion, the fastest land animal, the cheetah, but also obscure species like the jaguar, clouded leopard, snow leopard, and oncilla.
If you appreciate wildlife or are a cat enthusiast and wonders of evolution, you will be enchanted to know about the world’s biggest cats and where to see them in the wild. The big cat family represents some of the most fierce and majestic animals on Earth. Their killer instinct, feline grace, and their habitats where they dwell make the big cats so irresistible.
With that said, in this post, we are going to discuss 6 of the world’s big cats and where to see them in the wild.
# 1 Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat on the planet, weighing up to 660 pounds. Tiger’s distribution range stretches from Sumatra to Siberia (Siberian tigers are the biggest of all tigers). However, India has the world’s largest population of tigers, especially the great Bengal tiger. As per WWF, there are only 3900 wild tigers left in the world, out of which approximately 2967 are in India. Some of the best places to see tigers in the wild are Jim Corbett National Park, Ranthambore National Park, and Kanha Tiger Reserve, all of which are in India.
A lion is slightly smaller than the Siberian tiger, making it the second-largest big cat in the world. There are two types of lions – the endangered Asiatic lion and the African lion. Asiatic lions can only be found in India in the Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat. Lions live in groups and are social animals, unlike other big cats that spend most of their lives in solitude. Lions prefer grasslands over bushy forests, and they don’t rely on camouflage like other cats. The best places to see lions in the wild are Gir Forest National Park and Masai Mara (in Kenya).
Jaguar is native to the Americas but can be found in the jungles across the globe. In the US, a jaguar can be seen jumping into the water to hunt caimans and other animals in the water. While jaguars have a spotted coat, there is a black color variation as well, which we call a black panther. They are the same species but just have a different color morph. The best place to see a jaguar in the wild is the Brazilian Pantanal.
People often confuse between a leopard and a jaguar. This is because leopards are similar in appearance to jaguars. However, leopards have a lighter physique and are generally smaller. Another difference is that their spots are slightly darker and densely packed as compared to jaguars. Unlike other big cats that are limited to certain regions, leopards have the widest distribution range. They can be found throughout Southern and Eastern Asia and Africa. The best place for spotting leopards is in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park.
#5 Snow Leopard
Snow leopards the most mysterious and rarest of all big cats. They live in an environment that is inhospitable to most of the animals, including humans – Central Asia’s high altitude mountain ranges. They are rarely spotted in the wild; hence they are called the ‘ghost of the mountains.’ They come under endangered species. Snow leopards can live in temperatures as low as -4°F. They have a decent population in the eastern Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir states in India.
#6 Clouded Leopard
Clouded leopards are the smallest members of the big cat family. According to scientists, they are an evolutionary link between the small cats and the big cats. They are native to the Himalayan foothills and some parts of China. Clouded leopards are excellent climbers, and they spend most of their day chilling on a branch. Their body structure resembles the prehistoric saber-tooth. Unfortunately, their preferred habitat is still unknown, but they are said to be seen during wildlife safaris in India.
These are 6 six big cat species that you must witness in the wild. If you want to see the true nature of big cats, from where they live to how they hunt, what they eat, how they rule their territory, you need to visit the respective national parks.