Cheetahs Face Extinction Risk as Number in the Wild drops to 7,100

Cheetahs Face Extinction Risk as Number in the Wild drops to 7,100

Cheetahs in the wild have declined and conservationists have alarmed authorities about the risk of extinction the species faces. The results of a major worldwide survey released last week has suggested that the number of cheetahs in the wild could be around 7,100. At the start of last century, the number of cheetahs in the wild was over 100,000. The loss of population has mainly happened due to loss of natural habitat for cheetahs. The fastest animal on the earth is sprinting towards extinction, the research team involved with the counting of cheetahs informed.

The study team added that cheetahs have lost nearly 90 percent of their natural habitats. The cats also face risk when they are near farms in many countries as farmers protect their livestock. The encounters of wildlife with human population in many countries results in loss of wildlife in majority of cases. Local governments have tried to reduce conflict between local communities but the results haven’t been encouraging.

Cheetahs can reach top speed of 120km per hour but they have to maintain high success rate during their hunting, otherwise the loss of energy during sprints can turn fatal. Cheetah has lifespan of 7-8 years. The gestation of young is around 90-95 days. Young cheetahs fall prey to lions, hyenas and eagles.

Rita Groenewald, conservation education expert at the De Wildt Center, said, "Cheetahs are forgotten among the big species under threat. It is very scary to see what is happening to the numbers."

"We have to try to develop programmes so that cheetahs can survive alongside people. There are things that can be done, and that is a cause for hope," Laurie Marker, report co-author. Marker has been working for cheetahs from her base station in Namibia.

The study detailing plight of cheetahs has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead study author Dr. Sarah Durant, a cheetah expert at the Zoological Society of London, suggested that the predator should be defined as “endangered” on the official watch list of threatened species worldwide. Currently, the predator considered as a “vulnerable” species on the list.

Sounding the alarm, Dr. Durant said, “Our findings show that the large space requirements for the 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.”

According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a young cheetah cat can fetch up to $10,000 in the black market, and nearly 1,200 cheetah cubs have been trafficked out of Africa over the last ten years.

At the recently-held CITES conference in South Africa, governments agreed to adopt new measures to tackle the issue, such as cracking down on the use of social media for advertising cheetah sales. Now, experts have suggested that more measures, such as paying local communities to protect the predator, are needed to ensure long-term protection for the species.

The research paper informed...

Due to the species' dramatic decline, the study's authors are calling for the cheetah to be up-listed from 'Vulnerable' to 'Endangered' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Typically, greater international conservation support, prioritization and attention are granted to wildlife classified as 'Endangered', in efforts to stave off impending extinction.

Dr. Sarah Durant, ZSL/WCS lead author and Project Leader for the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, said: "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. 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."

Durant continued, "We have worked with range state governments and the cheetah conservation community to put in place comprehensive frameworks for action to save the species, but funds and resources are needed to implement them. The recent decisions made at the CITES CoP17 meeting in Johannesburg represent a significant breakthrough particularly in terms of stemming the illegal flow of live cats trafficked out of the Horn of Africa region. However, concerted action is needed to reverse ongoing declines in the face of accelerating land use changes across the continent."

While renowned for its speed and spots, the degree of persecution cheetahs face both inside and outside of protected areas is largely unrecognized. Even within guarded parks and reserves, cheetahs rarely escape the pervasive threats of human-wildlife conflict, prey loss due to overhunting by people, habitat loss and the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and trade as exotic pets.

Scientists are now calling for an urgent paradigm shift in cheetah conservation, towards landscape-level efforts that transcend national borders and are coordinated by existing regional conservation strategies for the species. A holistic conservation approach, which incentivises protection of cheetahs by local communities and trans-national governments, alongside sustainable human-wildlife coexistence is paramount to the survival of the species.

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