Cheetahs are a large feline known for being the fastest land animal in terms of raw speed and acceleration. The cheetah was once native to Africa through to the south-west of Asia, but today there are only small isolated populations left in the wild. It is estimated that only 12,400 cheetahs remain in Africa along with a much smaller population of about 50 animals in Iran. The cheetah is now listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List of Threatened Species. Let’s find out what has led to this classification.
Why are Cheetahs endangered?
Unlike some endangered species there is no single clear reason for the decline in the population of cheetahs. The most important factor is probably the loss of habitat because these animals require open plains for hunting. Cheetahs have also been hunted by humans for their meat, fur and to stop them preying on livestock, but this factor has been reduced in recent years as poaching declines. Another factor is a reduction in the number of available prey, partly because they are in competition with humans and other animals for the same prey.
Other factors that have led to the decline in population are not specifically related to human influence. The first of these is the fact that cheetah cubs are preyed upon by other predators, such as lions and hyenas. It is also thought that a lack of genetic diversity in the remaining cheetah populations is leading to birth defects and a higher mortality rate.
What is being done?
Despite their speed and hunting ability cheetahs do not thrive in wildlife parks where other predators are more dominant. Instead, reclaiming habitat and educating people is seen as the best way to protect the animal. Breeding the animals in captivity is also an important step in protecting the cheetah because it will not only increase the population, but can be used to help to increase genetic diversity.