The cheetah population has declined by 85 percent in some areas.
When we think of cheetahs we would rarely consider them as being threatened with extinction but our fastest land mammal is under threat due to lack of space, loss of prey and illegal poaching.
Research lead by the Zoological Society of London, Wildlife Conservation Society and Panthera, has discovered a sharp decline in the cheetah population with just 7,100 left on the planet. No more so than in Zimbabwe where the population has decreased by 85 percent which translates to 1,200 to just 170 cheetahs over a 16 year period.
Due to these findings, the team leading the research are calling for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to consider changing the cheetah’s status to endangered or vulnerable in order to raise awareness and provide better environmental protection.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Durant believes the problem lies with the dramatic decrease in the cats’ territory in Africa and Asia where they are forced to hunt for scarce food due to tribes killing vital prey for bushmeat as well as young cubs being taken for pets.
“Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought,” explained Dr. Sarah Durant.
The cheetahs’ territory is also unprotected meaning illegal trafficking and poaching occurs on a regular basis making it much harder for the species to survive.
One suggestion is providing more money for conservation efforts through ecotourism and incentives and rewards for reducing poaching practices according to Durant, “I’m not pretending this is simple,” she said. “But I think we have no choice if we’re going to protect a species like this.”
Details of the findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.