New report explains the dangers to the cheetah's remaining population

According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal that was made public in several online news media sites Monday, December 26, 2016, the cheetah is quickly heading toward extinction. Loss of natural habitat because of conflicts with human populations and illegal trade of cubs contributed to the animal’s decline, resulting in an estimated 7,100 cheetahs being left worldwide.

The cheetah was once found in Africa, including South Africa to India, and Asia. Today, the graceful animal is limited to eastern and southern Africa and Iran.

The population located in the latter, known as the Iranian cheetah, is essentially extinct with only about 50 remaining.

Over half of the world’s remaining cheetah population is now limited to one stronghold spread throughout six countries in southern Africa. But according to the report, the stronghold population is seriously threatened. For example, in Zimbabwe, the cheetah population once numbered around 1,200. Over the past 16 years, the population has fallen to just 170.

The cheetah is Mother Nature's masterpiece

The cheetah is known for being the fastest animal on the planet. It is Mother Nature’s engineering masterpiece; reaching a speed of up to 70 miles per hour. The slender cat’s burst of speed lasts for about 20 to 60 seconds.

Living in the open plains, the cheetah feeds on gazelles, wildebeest calves, impalas, and smaller hoofed Animals. However, despite its amazing speed, only about half of its chases are known to be successful.

The report also explains that the cheetah is one of the world’s widest ranging predator, with about 77% of its range existing outside of its currently protected areas.

As a result, it often finds itself in conflict with humanity as it competes for land and bush meat with farmers. In addition, the cheetah’s cubs are highly sought after in the illegal exotic pet trade as it is considered a status symbol in the Gulf states. On the black market, a young cheetah is worth up to $10,000.

Sadly, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, about 85% of the 1,200 animals trafficked over the past decade died during transport.

Global and local communities can help save the cheetah from extinction

The report concluded that the cheetah’s vulnerability has gone unnoticed for a long time, and suggests that both the global and local communities must work together to protect the cheetah from going extinct. However, more weight should be given to the local communities, since they are the ones who directly impact the remaining cheetah population. This can be accomplished by establishing “incentive-based approaches." In addition, it is believed that the cheetah should be upgraded from vulnerable to endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

It is already listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

It is hopeful that the detailed data and suggestions contained in the report will prevent the cheetah, evolution’s real-life speedster, from going extinct.

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