Felines: Natural History Introduction
What Is A Feline? A Feline (felidae) or Cat is a mammal,
and a member of the Carnivora order meaning they are all
carnivorous predatory mammals. The film introduces us to
seven distinct subspecies of felines - Lions, Tigers, Caracals,
Cougars, Lynx, the Cheetah and the extremely rare King Cheetah.
Basic introduction is made to the subspecies featured in
our "PowerCats: Locked & Loaded" DVD film.
Our "Power Cats" are perfectly designed predators.
If you will notice, nature designed all felines with beauty,
grace and awesome power. The territory range of the big cats
has been narrowed to a few isolated areas throughout Asia,
Africa, and the Middle East due primarily to severe loss
of habitat, excessive hunting and poaching. It is speculated
that the big cats may once have ranged into present day Alaska
via the Bering land bridge that once joined Alaska and Siberia.
Among the 36 felines species recognized today, tigers are
most closely related to lions, leopards and jaguars. These
cats evolved from a common ancestor that was similar to modern
leopards or jaguars and lived more than 5 million years ago.
Fossils clearly identified as those of tigers about 2 million
years old were found in central Asia, China, Siberia, Japan,
and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. The tiger's
range of existence has been narrowed to these few isolated
pockets throughout Asia due to severe loss of habitat and
excessive hunting and poaching.
Lions and Cheetahs are found only in parts of Africa and
Asia in the wild. Caracals are found in savannahs and scrub
forest of northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwestern
Asia. Cougar and Lynx territory spans from the Canadian Yukon
to the tip of South America and parts of Asia. They are so
named for the territory which they inhabit, i.e. a Cougar
in the Rocky Mountains is called a Mountain Lion but when
they would be called a Florida Panther.
Two subspecies of lions have been declared extinct, the
Barbary Lion and the Cape Lion which once ranged the northern
Coastal areas of Africa and southern Cape area, respectively.
Tigers once were found throughout the forested regions of
tropical and temperate Asia, from eastern Russia and Korea
through China and into Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent
and into Pakistan. Separate populations extended around the
Caspian Sea and on the Indonesian Islands of Bali, Java and
Sumatra. Unfortunately, the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers
have been declared extinct. Only five tiger subspecies are
still living today.
These animals are becoming increasingly rare and many of
the species featured within our film are classified as Endangered
or Critically Endangered with the threat of extinction. In
the instance of the South China tigers, there are less than
20-30 remaining in the wild. The Sumatran tiger does not
fare much better with recent population statistics reporting
less than 400 in the entire world. Further study and detail
on populations for each species is contained on the respective
animal bio pages within this curriculum. Recent methods of
tracking population is with radio transmissions and cameras
using infrared beams where the animals actually trigger a "self-portrait" snapshot
of themselves with recorded dates and times help scientists
to establish current population (see Lion & Tiger Population
It is important for students to understand what "Extinction" means
to these animals. Extinction is a very real possibility for
many of the species we introduce to them here and it may
happen within their lifetimes. We hope to educate our young
generation, who will become tomorrow's future leaders and
decision makers, about the current legislation and programs
in place to protect these species from extinction. The most
profound threat across the board to the big cats is loss
John Jones of Florida Wild Productions, one of our film's
co-hosts makes a very profound statement in our DVD which
is this: "Before you save the animal, you MUST save
Without sufficient preservation of natural habitat, these
animals will only be able to survive through organized captive
breeding programs for us to see residing in zoos, sanctuaries,
or worst case - in a museum. Students will learn that habitat
preservation and our collective concern as mankind for healthy
ecological systems and global conservation, including educational
programs for the indigenous people, are the keys to the future
for these magnificent animals.