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Steve Winter on the Trail of Big Cats for Big Cat Week

Steve Winter poses with "Roar-y" in LA at the Broad Stage. (Photo courtesy Ben Gibbs Photography)
Steve Winter poses with “Roar-y” the better-than-paper tiger in LA at the Broad Stage. (Photo courtesy Ben Gibbs Photography)

Photographer Steve Winter traveled from coast to coast in the U.S. this autumn on tour with National Geographic Live!, the live events division of National Geographic. His “On the Trail of Big Cats Tour,” engaged sold-out audiences across North America and educated attendees about how to help save the world’s big cats.

From trekking India’s Himalayas in search of rare snow leopards, to stalking the elusive jaguar through Latin American jungles, to chronicling the nocturnal activities of the “American lion” or cougar, there is nowhere Winter won’t go to come face-to-face with his subjects.

National Geographic Live audiences from Los Angeles to Toronto have hopped on the trail of big cats with Steve and heard about his life, career, and stories behind his iconic photos. During his fall tour, Winter reached nearly 12,000 people in his main stage shows and about 6,600 students during his matinees. (And, if you didn’t have a chance to catch Winter in action, big cats are all over the Nat Geo Wild channel this week.)

“Steve inspires audiences with stories from his assignments, but he also invites them to become invested in what’s happening with big cats,” said Andy van Duym‎, Vice President for National Geographic Live & Speakers Bureau.  “This season we’ve also pushed our engagement and empowerment strategies up a notch by mounting a simultaneous social media campaign—giving audiences a platform to share their Nat Geo Live experience with friends, and to support conservation of big cats.”

For young humans or young tigers alike, a watering hole is a watering hole, and an ideal place for relaxation and fun. (Photo by Steve Winter)
For young humans or young tigers alike, a watering hole is a watering hole, and an ideal place for relaxation and fun. (Photo by Steve Winter)

The Big Cats tour reached millions via the National Geographic’s Instagram account and National Geographic Live’s Facebook page. Hundreds of audience members shared their favorite moments from the series, engaged with @swfoto and @NatGeoLive, and posted pictures from their pre-show tiger encounters with Winter’s tour companion, “Roar-y the paper tiger” (named by a fan of the National Geographic Live Facebook page). Nat Geo Live fans in each city also shared pictures and glowing reviews of the events using #BigCatsForever, and asked on Twitter how they can help big cats.

Winter advises to log on to nationalgeographic.com and explore the Big Cats Initiative. The initiative focuses on research and helps local communities live side by side with these wide-ranging predators — and benefit financially from protecting them. He also pointed audiences to www.causeanuproar.org to find out how they can help.

Watch “Steve Winter: Waiting for the Right Moment” below.

Winter’s Nat Geo Live tour also showcased National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, with PSAs for Cause an Uproar and Build a Boma playing in the theater lobbies, and a text to donate slide on screen before each show. Patrons could even donate to BCI onsite via iPad and pick up BCI bookmarks (to go with their new autographed copy of Steve’s book Tigers Forever book, which were on sale after each show). Following each event, the NG social media team also tweeted tips on how individuals can make a difference for big cats, and shared tips for teachers after the student matinees.

“We are delighted to see an increase in awareness of the plight of big cats during Steve’s tour. Inspired by Steve’s compelling storytelling and moving photography, audience members are helping the cause by spreading the word about the dire situation big cats face today across all social media platforms,” said Alex Moen, Vice President of Explorer Programs.

Steve Winter on stage at EPCOR CENTRE, Calgary. (Photo by Richard Lam)
Steve Winter and his guests smile for a shot from the stage at EPCOR CENTRE, Calgary. (Photo by Richard Lam)

BCI noted an increase in Twitter traffic during the fall tour, with engagement up by 21 percent and a 50 percent increase in activity.

“I wanted to become a photographer for National Geographic Magazine since I was eight years old, so it is a great honor and a privilege to take the audience on assignment with me into remote places and share images and stories from nearly two decades of working with big cats,” Winter said. “I really identify with the audience. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity to remind people that we need to be better stewards of this planet. It’s part of our mission at National Geographic to inspire, illuminate, and teach.”

Winter’s series has taken him to Los Angeles, Toronto, Mesa, Chicago, and Calgary. His next stops on the trail with big cats include Tampa, Seattle, Redwood City, and Monterey.

If Winter isn’t stopping in a city near you, you can still get your big cat fix … from the comfort of your living room. All week long, Nat Geo WILD is presenting a festival of nature’s fiercest felines. Big Cat Week is back with visually stunning and powerful stories from around the world that bring you closer to lions, tigers, cheetahs, and panthers than ever before.

To stay on the trail of National Geographic’s big cat events, follow #BigCatsForever.