In a world where animals are finding it harder to cope with the ever-growing human population and over-development of our wilderness, the majestic cheetah could be on even more of a a global decline than originally thought that’s sending them right towards extinction.
Image Credit: National Geographic
Outside of protected areas, where lots of cheetah are known to roam, there’s very little information about the amount still walking the Earth. Additionally, there’s very little we can do to protect cheetah when they’re roaming outside of protected areas, so they’re exposed to more threats while abroad.
The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and outline the importance of declining cheetah numbers, which are reportedly widespread around the world.
Cheetahs tend to roam a lot, which means the protected area approach isn’t very effective at protecting them. There are estimated to be around 7,100 of these creatures still walking the Earth today, but as many as 77% of them are roaming outside of protected areas, which is alarming.
Outside of the protected areas, these creatures aren’t efficient at repopulating. Since more than ¾ of all wild cheetahs exist in these regions, that would mean only ¼ of the species is repopulating as efficiently as possible. The big picture is cheetah numbers are declining sharply as a result of these factors.
“This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date,” study lead author Dr. Sarah Durant said. “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,” she continued.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently notes the cheetah as “vulnerable,” but the report in PNAS suggests that this might be an underestimation. The wild cheetah could be extremely susceptible to extinction, so the authors believe this title should be escalated to “endangered.”
While there are still a lot of questions, one thing that’s obvious is we’ll need to significantly change the way we tackle cheetah conservation. We’ll have to take a much more aggressive approach if we’re to save the species, because at this rate, things look pretty grim for it.