Cheetahs Facing Extinction After Devastating Decline

Posted: Dec 26 2016, 10:58pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 27 2016, 1:25am CST , in Latest Science News


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Cheetahs Facing Extinction after Devastating Decline
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Only 7,100 cheetahs are left in the wild, according to a new study

The world’s fastest land animal could be just decades away from extinction.

A new study estimates that there are only 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild and they could be lost forever if something has not done to save them.

The iconic cheetah was once widely distributed across Africa but now it has been pushed out of 91% of its historic range either directly by habitat destruction or overhunting. For instance, Zimbabwe cheetahs have plummeted from 1,200 to 170 individuals in just 16 years – representing a staggering 85 percent decline in cheetahs’ population in the country.

Asiatic cheetahs have been hit hardest in recent years, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in one isolated place of Iran.

Due to the devastating decline, researchers fear for the survival of the animal and call for the change in its status from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date. Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Durant from Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

“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.”

Cheetahs are found in a very large home range. Moreover, almost 77 percent of their habitat falls outside of protected area. That’s what has made cheetahs so difficult to observe up until now. Researchers believe that concerted efforts are needed to reverse the ongoing decline in cheetahs’ population.

“We've just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction,” said Dr. Kim Young-Overton, Panthera's Cheetah Program Director. “We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-ranging cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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