Wildlife

Race to save the cheetah as study reveals extinction threat

A major survey released last week revealed that just 7,100 adult cheetahs remain in the wild, and that the species faces extinction without urgent new protection measures.

At the De Wildt Cheetah Centre outside Pretoria, South Africa, about 100 cheetahs are kept in large enclosures where they roam through a scrubby bushveld landscape.

The fastest land animal on Earth is critically vulnerable to the loss of its natural habitat—the major cause of numbers dropping from about 100,000 over the last 100 years.

Cheetahs have lost 90 percent of their habitat due to growing human populations, according to the study, which produced comprehensive new data on the elusive species.

Forced into contact with people, cheetahs are shot by farmers to protect livestock, accidentally caught in snares set for edible bushmeat or their cubs are illegally traded to the Gulf states as exotic pets.

Cheetahs adapt poorly to living in protected areas such as wildlife reserves as they range over huge distances, struggle with a shortage of prey and their young are easy targets for eagles, lions and hyenas.

Of the cheetahs still alive in the wild, all are in Africa except for fewer than 50 in Iran, with the others mainly in Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.

Cheetahsadap

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