The largest carnivores fascinate us with their power, beauty and agility. In many countries, however, including France, their coexistence with humans is fraught due to them preying on livestock. In some places they are also hunted for their skin or bones, used in traditional Asian medicine. And forest species are falling victim to the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat. Yet carnivores play an essential role in conserving ecosystems: their position at the head of the food chain means they regulate herbivore populations and are essential to the overall ecological balance.

Cheetah (Africa, Asia)

Fast and sleek, cheetahs are highly endangered in the wild due to other predators (who often steal their prey) and to a lack of genetic diversity, which leaves them more vulnerable to diseases and less adaptable to changes in their environment. 

Tiger (Asia)

Tigers have lost more than 90% of their range over the last 100 years. Their remaining territories have only small, isolated and hence very fragile populations. These super-predators can attack animals weighing more than 1 tonne. The success of their attacks depends on the element of surprise as tigers cannot pursue prey over very long distances.

African Wild Dog (Africa)

Dominant female African Wild Dogs generally have litters of about 10 but sometimes they run to more than 20 babies! The pack works together to look after and rear the young. African Wild Dogs hunt in a very well-coordinated manner, giving them a higher success rate than other carnivores.

Sri Lanka Leopard (Asia)

This opportunistic cat is the only large carnivore of the island. Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, it is threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. 700 to 950 individuals remain in the wild.

Meerkat (Africa)

Meerkats eat mainly insects that they dig out of the ground. They like basking in the sun at the entrances to their burrows at the start and end of the day, relaxed in the knowledge that one of the group acting as a sentinel will alert them to danger. The young are looked after in a group creche while members go out foraging for food.

Lion (Africa, Asia)

Lions are social animals, unlike most other felines. Females hunt in groups, often attacking large prey such as buffalo or elephants. Males have an impressive mane – another unique feature among felines.