What do you call a biologist that works with mammals like big cats, cheetahs, or wolves? What classes would a person take if they wanted to work with protecting and learning all they can about cheetahs?

Hi,

You're probably looking for a more specific term, like "ornithologist" refers to someone who studies birds, but not every speciality in biology has a particular name, I'm afraid! The reason why you get a word like "ornithologist" is because there are quite a lot of people out there specialized in the study of birds. In contrast, not very many scientists work with predators. I would use "zoologist" to describe them.

The second part of your question is more complicated... From an academic point of view, you could study zoology and go on to specialize in conservation. Or, you could work in one of the rescue centres in Africa, or volunteer with a conservation organization. There are many possible paths, but they all involve lots of hard work. All the best of luck!

Carlos.

Just to add in, you do hear the term 'mammologist' for somone who works on mammals, thouhgh as Carlos notes, there's nothing out there fore people specialising in carnivores etc.

For some more ideas on getting into conservation:

I don't know where you are or what level of schooling you're at, but if you have a zoo nearby you could see if they're looking for interns or volunteers. You probably won't get to work with large predators directly, but you'll learn lots and make contacts with people interested in conservation.

There are also study abroad opportunities to go learn about conversation first hand. I did something like this in Costa Rica and we got to visit a big cat sanctuary (no cheetahs, obviously) where they care for injured animals of all kinds. It's a great way to get your feet wet and find out if a career in conservation biology is something you really want to pursue.

For classes, definitely look for a conservation biology course, but also consider comparative zoology or anatomy, animal physiology, or even a conservation or environmental policy course to learn about the political messiness that can accompany conservation efforts in developing parts of the world like Africa.

Good luck and definitely be prepared to work hard!