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article imageCheetahs facing extinction risk

By Tim Sandle     Dec 27, 2016 in Environment
The world's cheetah population is rapidly moving towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers. There are only 7,100 of the world's fastest animals left.
The cheetah occurs mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. The fastest land animal in the world, the cheetah has a slender, long-legged body. The big cats are tan in color with black spots all over their bodies. Cheetah are active mainly during the day, with hunting its major activity.
The cheetah is in decline, with just over 7,000 left alive. According to The Independent, the biggest decline has been in Asia, where only 50 animals remain. Elsewhere, in Zimbabwe the cheetah population has plunged from 1,200 to a maximum of only 170 animals in 16 years.
The reason why cheetahs are in decline is because they range far beyond protected areas and this results in them coming increasingly into conflict with humans. This relates to the natural tendencies of the cheetah, which is one of the widest-ranging carnivores. Some cheetahs are killed as pests; others for bushmeat; in addition there is a growing illegal trafficking of cubs, especially from southern Africa to Asia. Here young cubs fetch up to $10,000 each.
Interviewed by the BBC, the lead author of the study, Dr Sarah Durant, from the Zoological Society of London said: "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. 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."
In terms of a way forwards, most environmental groups are seeking greater protection for cheetahs. For this to happen, the animals need to be reclassified from vulnerable to endangered. Such a decision can only be taken by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which uses the 'red list' to add further protective measures for endangered animals.
The full report in to the plight of the cheetah will shortly be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More about Cheetah, Extinction, Animals, Nature
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