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Racing Towards Extinction

Cheetah numbers plummet to all time low

A new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that only 7100 of cheetahs species remain in the wild, calling for them to be reclassified from vulnerable to endangered.

The study shows that cheetah population has almost halved since the last comprehensive count across Africa which put it at 14,000, and that the species have been reduced to just 9% of their previous range.

Dr Sarah Hunter, the report’s lead author, said “Given the secretive nature of this elusive car, it has been hard to gather information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked”.

Once found across Africa and much of Asia, the big cats are now confined to only six countries in Africa: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the species now extinct in Asia and existing elsewhere only in a small isolated community of around 50 in Iran.

Known for their title as the world’s fastest land animal, reaching speeds of up to around 60 miles an hour, the cheetah’s decline has become a concern for wildlife groups across the globe. The threat was previously underestimated due to the focus mainly on groups within protected areas, says the study, but the focus is now needed on those living outside these.

The cheetah’s need for large expanses of land to roam has caused much difficulty for the species as much of its habitat has been developed by farmers and bush meat hunting has reduced abundance of prey. Coupled with the increasing demand for cubs on the black market, predominantly from Gulf States, the species faces an array of threats which have all contributed to dwindling numbers.

Conservation groups are urging the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to change the species’ status from vulnerable to endangered in order to help increase funding for conservation efforts and draw more attention to the urgency of the situation, particularly from African governments.

There have been increased efforts recently to combat the trade of cheetah cubs, particularly the trafficking from Africa to the Middle East, with governments agreeing to put new measures in force to suppress use of social media in advertising these animals, and the United Arab Emirates introducing new regulations in the ownership of endangered animals. It is hoped that once the fragility of the cheetah’s existence is truly recognised, governments and charities may join forces to prevent yet another life on Earth from existing no more.

Image: DIVA007/flickr

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