Defender of Wildlife describe the Cheetah as “The fastest land animal in the world, the cheetah is a marvel of evolution. The cheetah’s slender, long-legged body is built for speed. Cheetahs are tan in color with black spots all over their bodies. They can also be distinguished from other big cats by their smaller size, spotted coats, small heads and ears and distinctive “tear stripes” that stretch from the corner of the eye to the side of the nose.” This animal’s natural habitation is the savannah and once walked the land from the southernmost tip of Africa, South Africa, to India.
A population once put at about 100,000 in 1900, it is estimated that just under 7,000 remain in the wild in Africa today and that number is shrinking. For example, it is estimated that the population of cheetahs in Zimbabwe has fallen from 1,200 to just 170 in the last 16 years. As reported in an article byMatt McGrath in BBC, researchers, sounding the alarm have said that the threats facing this predator have gone unnoticed for too long:
“Our findings show that the large space requirements for the 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.”
Another of the big concerns about cheetahs has been the illegal trafficking of cubs, fuelled by demand from the Gulf states, as reported by the BBC earlier this year.
The young cats can fetch up to $10,000 on the black market. According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, some 1,200 cheetah cubs are known to have been trafficked out of Africa over the past 10 years but around 85% of them died during the journey.
At the recent CITES conference in South Africa, governments agreed to put new measures in place to tackle this issue, clamping down on the use of social media to advertise cheetahs for sale.
The researchers are now calling on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to categorise the Cheetah on its Red List as endangered.