Photo: A tiger licking one of her cubs

A Bengal tiger called Sita gives her cubs an early morning bath in India’s Bandhavgarh National Park.

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Cats of all sizes—ranging from playful family pets to powerful tigers in the wild—are among the most familiar of all of Earth’s animals. Fossil evidence suggests that ancestors of today’s cats may date back as much as 30 million years in Europe and 16 million years in the Americas.

Cats living in the wild, especially big cats such as tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, cougars (pumas), and jaguars are increasingly at risk of extinction because of pressure from ever-expanding human populations. Students can help protect these beautiful animals by researching and learning about where and how these animals live and what threats put them at risk.

Conduct an Investigation

Divide the class into six groups and assign each group one of the following types of big cats: tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, cougars (pumas), or jaguars.

Instruct each group to research the following information about its assigned big cat.

i. Description of the cat
ii. Range/natural habitat
iii. Life cycle/habits
iv. Threats v. Conservation efforts

The following web sites will be helpful:

National Geographic Big Cats Initiative
Look at the lower half of the page and see "More Big Cats." Select the desired animal to see population, range, and other facts.

San Diego Zoo
Under the heading "cats," select the desired species to locate range maps, facts & figures, and general information.

Use the "search" option to locate information on the desired cat species.

Big Cats Online
Select continent; then select desired species.

Present Research Findings

Provide each group with poster board, colored pencils or markers, and a blank map for the range area of its assigned cat. Maps can be downloaded from Expeditions [select the desired continent, customize to “basic”, print as pdf]

Guide students to organize their research findings, including photos and a range map, to present what they have learned about their assigned cat. Remind them to include correct documentation for all sources used.

Extend the Activity

Have students identify other animals that are endangered and learn more about these animals at risk.

See World Wildlife Fund

Bring the exciting competition of the National Geographic Bee to your school! Take advantage of the early-bird registration; the $100 fee includes contest materials and prizes. Schools with financial need can apply for discounts here.


Key National Geographic Bee Dates

August 18, 2015 - December 18, 2015
Early bird registration ($100)
Check or credit card payment accepted

December 19, 2015 - January 18, 2016
Registration ($120)
Credit card payment accepted

February 5, 2016
Deadline for School Bee Champs to take online qualifying test by 11:59 pm EST.

March 4, 2016
State Bees qualifiers are announced.

April 1, 2016
State Bees are held in every state and Washington, D.C.

May 22-25, 2016
National Championship held in Washington, D.C.

Test Your Geography IQ

Can you answer these video questions from the 2015 National Geographic Bee Championship? Questions from Pharrell Williams, Wynton Marsalis, and National Geographic Explorer Fredrik Hiebert will test your knowledge of the world.

How to Help

  • Photo: Geo Bee Winners

    Fund a School

    Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.

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