They say a cat has nine lives but, in the case of big cats, it’s sadly untrue. Protecting the longevity of the planet’s wild cats is the life mission of Guy Balme, whose doctorate focused on the impact of persecution on leopards at Phinda. A leading field scientist for Panthera’s Mun-Ya-Wana Leopard Project, he was instrumental in driving legislation and revising protocols that not only protected but also increased leopard populations in KwaZulu-Natal. In his role as director of Panthera’s lion programme, Baume focuses on mitigating the human-lion conflict to save the fewer than 30 000 free-roaming lions that remain on Earth. Balme oversees 25 African projects, working with communities, conservation organisations and governments to achieve meaningful scale before it’s too late. His passion and expertise have taken him to Brazil to implement jaguar conservation initiatives, Mongolia to study snow leopards and the deserts of Iran to monitor Asiatic cheetahs.
— Lu Larche