President and Chief Conservation Officer, Panthera
"I think the naysayers who think [conserving cats] doesn’t matter because it’s too late are really missing the point. It just isn’t too late. In many of these species we are facing a real crisis and a real challenge, but we can succeed. I think if we stop today it would be too late. The point is we’re not going to…"
Luke Hunter is the President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera. Before joining Panthera, Hunter worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society as the head of their Great Cats Program and he taught wildlife ecology at universities in Australia and South Africa. He has worked on the ecology and conservation of carnivores for more than two decades, starting with his doctoral and post-doctoral work on re-establishing populations of lions and cheetahs in areas where they had been wiped out by people in South Africa. That research helped develop protocols which now act as the standard for large cat restoration, and have resulted in over 45 new populations of wild lions across Southern Africa.
At Panthera, he oversees the planning and execution of the organization’s field programs around the globe, and supervises the scientific priorities of Panthera’s work. He is especially focused on developing and scaling up solutions to widespread retaliatory killing of big cats by rural communities, and on improving the protection of wild cat habitat. He also works on reducing the impacts of legal recreational hunting on leopard and lion populations in Africa; in the Brazilian Pantanal to reduce the conflict between ranchers and jaguars; and in Iran on Persian leopards and the last surviving Asiatic cheetahs. Hunter supervises graduate students working on wild cats around the world, focusing especially on initiating comprehensive studies on very poorly studied species such as African golden cats and Sunda clouded leopards.
Luke Hunter has written extensively about wild cats and their conservation, publishing widely in both scientific journals and popular media, including for Slate, The Huffington Post and National Geographic. He has published seven books including Cheetah (2003), Cats of Africa: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (2006) and Field Guide to Carnivores of the World (2011), which has been translated into Chinese, French and German editions. His most recent book, Wild Cats of the World, was released in 2015.