The cheetah is one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. After all, did you know that they are the fastest land mammal on the earth? That’s right. The speed of their run ranges from 50 to 80 mph. Aside from being the fastest land mammal, cheetahs are also the most threatened of all cats. So what is the big problem these fast cats are facing, and what is the solution? And how many cheetahs are there left in the world? In this article, we will take a closer look at the plight of the cheetah and how the cheetah population has been affected over the years.
How Many Cheetahs Are Left In The World?
As the fastest land animals, cheetahs are probably the best-known species of big cats. The speed and acceleration of cheetahs make them great predators. Thanks to how fast they can go, they are able to hunt down prey such as gazelles. However, despite being such great hunters, the cheetah population has been severely dwindling.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African cheetahs are estimated to number between 6,517 and 7,000 in the wild today, while Asian cheetahs are estimated to number fewer than 50. Cheetahs are currently classified as ‘vulnerable.’ In the last four decades, the population has declined by about 50 percent, and the species’ historical range has shrunk significantly.
According to a study entitled “The distribution and numbers of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in southern Africa”, the cheetah population is even lower than estimated by the IUCN. As a result of their studies, they identified 3,577 free-ranging cheetahs and suggested the IUCN consider up-listing the species as endangered.
Although cheetahs have faced and overcome the threat of extinction before, they are currently facing extinction once again. There have been at least two instances in recent history when cheetah populations have faced extinction. What is causing the population of cheetahs to decline so rapidly? Let’s take a look at the factors negatively impacting the cheetah population.
What Is Causing The Decline Of The Cheetah Populations?
There is an increased threat of extinction for cheetahs due to climate change, hunting by humans, and habitat destruction. Let’s take a look at each of these factors in more detail.
Hunting By Humans
There has been a longstanding conflict between cheetahs and farmers. A majority of cheetahs live on land owned by farmers or ranchers. In the farmer’s minds, cheetahs pose the greatest threat to livestock, which is why they kill them. Cheetahs do very little harm to livestock, yet farmers regularly kill them out of precaution or in retaliation for killing their animals.
Cheetahs are also hunted as sports trophies by hunters. The cheetah population has been threatened by poaching because some people want its coat or fur. Cheetahs are also known for being one of the easier exotic pets to tame. Consequently, they’re often hunted, captured, and smuggled out of countries because they’re wanted as pets.
Almost all of Africa, except for the Congo Basin, eastern India, and the Arabian Peninsula, were covered with cheetahs once. As a result of the growth of the human population, a number of grassland habitats that cheetahs rely on are being destroyed by roads, farms, and settlements. Cheetahs live in very small numbers in the wild. This means that they require a large area of habitat that is connected to ensure that they can survive, as there are so few of them in the wild. Currently, about 76 percent of the known cheetah range is located on unprotected lands. The result of this situation is that populations are dispersed widely, posing a threat to the species’ future.
Due to the rapid changes in the environment, climate change poses a significant threat to both wildlife and humans as we are all reliant on the land of our planet. Cheetahs are particularly susceptible to rapid ecological and environmental change, in part because they do not have a diverse genetic makeup, and they are specialized hunters. As a result, they need a large field of vision and an open landscape in order to catch their prey. It will become increasingly difficult for cheetahs to hunt as the country becomes uninhabitable for many species.
Why Is It Important To Keep Cheetah Populations Thriving?
There is no doubt that cheetahs have an incredibly important role to play in the ecosystem, even though we may not realize it. This is due to the fact that they are classified as predators. Cheetahs live primarily in grasslands and maintain healthy populations of the animals they hunt. The cheetahs are most likely to hunt slow and weak species of wildlife, whenever the opportunity arises. In the absence of cheetahs, there would be a domino effect. This effect is known as a trophic cascade. In the event of a cheetah extinction, there would be an overabundance of herbivores. This would then lead to plant extinction, soil erosion, and not as much water being available.
Are there any efforts being made to protect cheetahs from extinction? Here are some conservation measures being put into place to help these fast-moving cats.
What Conservation Efforts Are Being Put Into Place For Cheetahs?
In 1975, the CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibited commercial international trade in wild cheetahs. Additionally, The Range Wide Conservation Program (RWCP) for Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs is currently being carried out in almost all range states within Africa. Basically, these plans set a guideline for national conservation action planning. Cheetah conservation and study are also part of many programs in southern and eastern Africa. They provide crucial site-based conservation services for cheetahs, and some of them provide support for national wildlife authorities to protect them.
It is also worth mentioning that the Asiatic cheetah is protected completely in Iran as well. As part of the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), the Iranian government collaborated with CCF, the IUCN, Panthera Corporation, UNDP, and Wildlife Conservation Society to protect the habitat of Asiatic cheetahs.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Travelnshot/Shutterstock.com
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