Cheetahs heading towards extinction, zoologists warn

Only 7,100 cheetahs remain in the wild, a scientific study has revealed. 

Urgent action is necessary to stop the cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal – from going extinct, zoologists have warned.

Only 7,100 cheetahs remain in the wild, occupying 9% of the territory they once lived in, according to an investigation carried out by the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

According to the study, more than half of the world’s remaining cheetahs live in one population that spans across six countries in southern Africa. Cheetahs in Asia have essentially been wiped out, while a group estimated to number fewer tan 50 individuals still clings on in Iran. In Zimbabwe, the cheetah population has plummeted from around 1,200 to just 170 in the past 16 years, with the main cause being major changes in land tenure.

Zoologists have warned that the threats facing the cheetah have gone unnoticed for far too long.

“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,” said Dr Sarah Durant from the Zoological Society of London and the report’s lead author. “Out 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 major concern about cheetahs has been the illegal trafficking of cubs, that can fetch up to $10,000 each on the black market. The Cheetah Conservation Fund has claimed that around 1,200 cubs are known to have been smuggled out of Africa over the past decade, but around 85% of those died during the journey.

The zoologists who compiled the report have called on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to change the categorization of the cheetah on its Red List from vulnerable to endangered. 

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