According to a new study published on Monday, December 26th, the cheetah population is declining at alarming rates. In a joint investigation, the Zoological Society of London, Panthera, and Wildlife Conservation Study discovered that only about 7,100 cheetahs run wild as of 2016. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to Sarah Durant, the lead author of the study, this is the best estimation available so far. Furthermore, the scientists say that the cheetah population took a dramatic plunge over the course of the last century. The National Wildlife Federation reported that 100 years ago approximately 100,000 cheetahs lived in the wild.
Most individuals live in Africa. However, other groups have been observed living in Iran, as well. According to Ms. Durant, as many as 14 groups out of a grand total of 18 experienced a decrease in cheetah population. The study notes that Zimbabwe’s cheetah population dropped in a matter of only 16 years from 1,200 representatives to only 170. When talking in percentage points, this means that the country lost 85 percent of its cheetahs.
The team of researchers says that the phenomenon remained unknown to the scientific community up until recently because of the feline’s secretive nature. Several causes that could have led to cheetahs finding themselves on the verge of extinction could consist of the wide range of threats faced by the individuals in the wild and the cats’ large space requirements, says Sarah Durant.
In light of the recent discoveries, the researchers now want to change the species status from vulnerable to endangered. Other factors that could have played a part in the alarming decline in cheetah population consist of habitat loss, illegal trade in cheetah cubs, loss of food source, attacks from villagers, and high risk of getting hit by speeding cars.
At the moment, approximately 77 percent of cheetahs live outside protected areas and wildlife reserves. Because of the feline’s predatory nature, the team of researchers requires villagers and governments alike to promote tolerance for individuals that sometimes prey on livestock. According to the new findings, cheetahs have been driven out of 91 percent of their historic range.
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