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“Just look into the eyes of these big cats once, and you will know we cannot let them slip away.”

Dereck and Beverly





After 13 years, the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative is celebrating its success, understanding its experiments, and making a change to a fully managed, marketed and run NGO under the Great Plains Foundation umbrella.

Conservationists and big cat specialists Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who founded the Big Cats Initiative (BCI) and have also founded the Great Plains Foundation, are now consolidating all their conservation and community efforts under one umbrella for even greater reach for solutions to halt the decline of big cats in the wild.

BCI made a substantial impact in big cat conservation, awarding more than 150 grants for solutions in 28 countries, funding individuals’ on-the-ground research and innovative field-based conservation projects.  The Great Plains Big Cats Initiative will advance this now and has initiated a fund-raising campaign to ramp up this vital work, build on the successes, apply more funding to projects that have proven themselves, and find new, unproven solutions to seed invest in.

BIG CATS: The Problem

Big cats worldwide are under threat, local extinctions are imminent, and 13 years of research via BCI indicates this can be attributed to habitat loss, degradation, overhunting, trade in big cat parts and other conflicts with humans.

Lions have disappeared from 95% of their historic range in Africa, and their populations have declined 43% in the 21 years between 1993-2014.

African cheetah populations have disappeared from more than 90% of their historic range, with an 87% decline in “resident range” populations.

“When Beverly and I were born, the estimates for lions were 450,000 lions, and they have since declined to around 20,000; leopards and cheetahs, tigers and pumas have followed similar paths. But we’ve learned that there are vital things we can do to elegantly solve the problem, flatten the curve, and reverse it.

But doing the same thing time and again will not yield any different results.” Dereck Joubert.

“This then is a call to action to help us fund solutions, but also one for innovative and even risky ideas with reasonable chances of failure, but high chances of significantly changing the big cat future landscape.” Beverly Joubert


Since BCI was formed in 2009, we have made a significant impact.


Grants awarded for work in 28 countries


Grants given for nearly $10M

– 3k

Reduced threats for almost 3,000 big cats in the wild


2,000 Livestock enclosures were built, reducing human-wildlife conflict with big cats


13,000 Life-threatening snares removed from big cat habitats

Now we are taking those lessons and scaling them up.


We are looking for good ideas that we can help scale up. They must be in the realm of preventing and reversing the decline of big cats worldwide. The process is relaxed and informal, immediate, and not reliant on any set grant-making committee frequency.

Projects can be in any big cat population range land – inside protected areas or outside. The objective is clear, “What we can do to reverse the downward trend of big cats.”

We are not looking for studies on behaviour, lifestyle projects, Ph.D. top-up funding. We are not looking to fund media projects.

The style of our funding will be in stages:


Funding the idea,


Executing the idea,


Scaling the idea.

We will be offering mentorships to applicants that need academic guidance using a team of well-heeled scientists.

If the project is correct, we have the opportunity to work with other funding entities in the big cat realm.

We are seeking local conservationists to support, mentor, and team for meaningful advancement in each country in each region.


Our target in our next two years (years 14-16) is to raise and immediately invest $2.5M-$3.5m a year. We intend to scale that up at a rate of 25-35% a year.

Your support in the past via National Geographic has been hugely appreciated, and we hope that you will continue with us and help us find new supporters.

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