Cheetahs Racing Against Extinction

As researched and reported in my previous blog, “Why We Should Be Concerned About The Sixth Mass Extinction,” we are the midst of an ‘extinction event.’ Considering there has only been five other mass extinctions since the dawn of time, it’s eye-opening to face the fact we are witnessing one in our lifetime.

From honey bees to Pacific fishers, a rapid decrease in biodiversity could upset the balance of life on this planet. This coupled with ‘climate change,’ if man doesn’t address these crucial concerns, we could be leaving our children and grandchildren with less than what we experienced during our lifetimes.

Today we will consider the high risk of extinction for the cheetah.

Cheetahs not fast enough to escape extinction?

Forbes contributor Shaena Montanari’s recent post in this regard, notes that while cheetahs “may be the fastest animal on land with a top speed of 65 miles per hour . . . their exceptional sprinting ability cannot save them from extinction."

Researcher Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London asserts: “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," Durant said.

"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."

"We need to uplist cheetah threat status from vulnerable to endangered," she added. The group that oversees these listings is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the Red List of Threatened Species.


The research conducted by Durant’s team point to the following cheetah's declining numbers:

  • Only about 7,100 cheetahs are left in the wild on Earth down from 100,000 at the end of the 19th Century.
  • Most of the decline (90%) occurred in the last 100 years [which reinforces the Sixth Mass Extinction supposition.
  • Remaining cheetahs live mainly in Africa, with a small population in Iran.
  • Zimbabwe's cheetah population has plummeted from 1,200 to about 170 animals in just 16 years.
  • About 77% of cheetahs live outside of wildlife reserves and other protected areas, the study said. This requires governments and villages to promote tolerance for a carnivore that sometimes hunts livestock.
  • Scientists estimate the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range.


Glimmer of Hope

There are some initiatives underway to thwart the cheetah’s potential extinction. Dr. Laurie Marker, an American zoologist, has worked on cheetah conservation since the 1970s. In 1990, she launched the non-profit Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia. CCF works to protect and rehabilitate injured cheetahs, and serves as a center for research and education for cheetah conservation.

The CCF also partners with local farmers to help them find ways to protect their herds from cheetah predation in the hope of discouraging farmers from killing cats that attack livestock. Protecting the final remnants of the cheetah population also means working closely with local residents to conserve the remaining habitats of the cheetah.

Dr. Marker’s recently published book, A Future for Cheetahs, features stunning photography from wildlife photographer Suzy Eszterhas and provides an in-depth look at this charismatic big cat and the threats it faces. The book can be purchased at here, where a significant portion of the donation will support the Cheetah Conservation Fund.



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