The natural occurrence of lentiviruses closely related to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in nondomestic felid species is shown here to be worldwide. Cross-reactive antibodies to FIV were common in several free- ranging populations of large cats, including East African lions and cheetahs of the Serengeti ecosystem and in puma (also called cougar or mountain lion) populations throughout North America. Infectious puma lentivirus (PLV) was isolated from several Florida panthers, a severely endangered relict puma subspecies inhabiting the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades ecosystems in southern Florida. Phylogenetic analysis of PLV genomic sequences from disparate geographic isolates revealed appreciable divergence from domestic cat FIV sequences as well as between PLV sequences found in different North American locales. The level of sequence divergence between PLV and FIV was greater than the level of divergence between human and certain simian immunodeficiency viruses, suggesting that the transmission of FIV between feline species is infrequent and parallels in time the emergence of HIV from simian ancestors.