Sprinting towards extinction? Cheetah numbers crash globally

December 26, 2016
Credit: Zoological Society of London

The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), is sprinting towards the edge of extinction and could soon be lost forever unless urgent, landscape-wide conservation action is taken, according to a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Led by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study reveals that just 7,100 cheetahs remain globally, representing the best available estimate for the species to date. Furthermore, the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range. Asiatic cheetah populations have been hit hardest, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in one isolated pocket of Iran.

Due to the species' dramatic decline, the study's authors are calling for the cheetah to be up-listed from 'Vulnerable' to 'Endangered' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Typically, greater international conservation support, prioritization and attention are granted to wildlife classified as 'Endangered', in efforts to stave off impending extinction.

Dr. Sarah Durant, ZSL/WCS lead author and Project Leader for the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, said: "This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date. 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 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."

Durant continued, "We have worked with range state governments and the cheetah conservation community to put in place comprehensive frameworks for action to save the species, but funds and resources are needed to implement them. The recent decisions made at the CITES CoP17 meeting in Johannesburg represent a significant breakthrough particularly in terms of stemming the illegal flow of live cats trafficked out of the Horn of Africa region. However, concerted action is needed to reverse ongoing declines in the face of accelerating land use changes across the continent."

While renowned for its speed and spots, the degree of persecution cheetahs face both inside and outside of is largely unrecognized. Even within guarded parks and reserves, cheetahs rarely escape the pervasive threats of human-wildlife conflict, prey loss due to overhunting by people, habitat loss and the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and trade as exotic pets.

To make matters worse, as one of the world's most wide-ranging carnivores, 77% of the cheetah's habitat falls outside of protected areas. Unrestricted by boundaries, the species' wide-ranging movements weaken law enforcement protection and greatly amplify its vulnerability to human pressures. Indeed, largely due to pressures on wildlife and their habitat outside of protected areas, Zimbabwe's cheetah population has plummeted from 1,200 to a maximum of 170 animals in just 16 years - representing an astonishing loss of 85% of the country's cheetahs.

Scientists are now calling for an urgent paradigm shift in cheetah conservation, towards landscape-level efforts that transcend national borders and are coordinated by existing regional conservation strategies for the species. A holistic conservation approach, which incentivises protection of cheetahs by local communities and trans-national governments, alongside sustainable human-wildlife coexistence is paramount to the survival of the species.

Panthera's Cheetah Program Director, Dr. Kim Young-Overton, shared, "We've just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction. The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough. We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-ranging cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the forever."

The methodology used for this study will also be relevant to other species, such as African wild dogs, which also require large areas of land to prosper and are therefore similarly vulnerable to increasing threats outside designated protected areas.

Explore further: Conservationists to CITES: Stop trade in wild cheetahs

More information: The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1611122114

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14 comments

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tblakely1357
1 / 5 (6) Dec 26, 2016
It seems that once a species becomes too specialized it's doomed.
MarsBars
4.5 / 5 (8) Dec 27, 2016
It seems that once a species becomes too specialized it's doomed.

What is so specialized about the cheetah that doesn't apply equally to lions, leopards, tigers, lynx, cougars and other medium to large wild cats? Loss of habitat, and predation for trophies or bogus medical uses - i.e. human activities - are primary root causes for placing many wild species at risk of extinction. As far as I'm aware, cheetahs are no more specialized now than they have been for millennia.
zaxxon451
5 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2016
To support cheetah conservation:

http://cheetah.or...an-help/
BurnBabyBurn
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 27, 2016
Thanks Zax. Mars, the baby mongers will not stop until every mammal big enough to compete in ANY way with human population expansion is replaced with a human monoculture. Vermin is as vermin does.

tblakely1357 1 /5 (3) 18 hours ago
It seems that once a species becomes too specialized it's doomed.


Internet trolls seem to have become a sub-species and they're pretty specialized. Let's hope you're right for once!
gkam
2 / 5 (8) Dec 27, 2016
During the election campaign, the Trump Boys went out with Big Guns to kill a Cheetah.

Real class.

Get ready for more of that kind of thing. We are entering the Dark Ages now.
florent
3 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2016
Hi. The linked document from PNAS isn't available anymore.
Why that? How to get a copy of it? Thanks.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2016
Thanks Zax. Mars, the baby mongers will not stop until every mammal big enough to compete in ANY way with human population expansion is replaced with a human monoculture. Vermin is as vermin does.

tblakely1357 1 /5 (3) 18 hours ago
It seems that once a species becomes too specialized it's doomed.


Internet trolls seem to have become a sub-species and they're pretty specialized. Let's hope you're right for once!

Uh huh and the human parasites, like you, are a boon.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2016
Antigoracle
I regularly take dumps with more interesting character than you.

Go back to your Ivanka wet dreams where you get to be her big daddy.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2016
Antigoracle
I regularly take dumps with more interesting character than you.

Go back to your Ivanka wet dreams where you get to be her big daddy.

Uh huh. How fitting, since when you were born, your mama brought home the dump and left the baby behind.
As for Ivanka, she wouldn't waste the time to even fart on you.
tblakely1357
1 / 5 (3) Dec 28, 2016
What is so specialized about the cheetah that doesn't apply equally to lions, leopards, tigers, lynx, cougars and other medium to large wild cats?


Cheetahs are high speed specialists. They build is less robust than other cats and their prey is far more limited compared to other cats. Where they hunt is also more restricted than other cats. Kinda obvious if you think about it.
zaxxon451
5 / 5 (5) Dec 28, 2016

Cheetahs are high speed specialists. They build is less robust than other cats and their prey is far more limited compared to other cats. Where they hunt is also more restricted than other cats. Kinda obvious if you think about it.


The article suggests that the decline in cheetah populations has much more to do with human activity than species specialization. Humans are responsible for the problem, and we need to fix it.
jim_xanara
3 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2016
Just so. Start with the title. They're not sprinting towards extinction, they're being driven over the edge. Small matter of agency...


Go back to your Ivanka wet dreams where you get to be her big daddy.


Could work. She seems to have a thing for men with ingrown penie.

gkam 1.7 / 5 (6) 23 hours ago
During the election campaign, the Trump Boys went out with Big Guns to kill a Cheetah.


Yeah, probably runs in the family, that cocktail weenie penie. Prime example of "overcompensation".

tblakely1357
Cheetahs are high speed specialists. They build is less robust than other cats and their prey is far more limited compared to other cats. Where they hunt is also more restricted than other cats. Kinda obvious if you think about it.


IF you have no logic, no education, can't look around you and see the obvious and have no conscience. Yeah. What's obvious is that pretty much describes you.
tblakely1357
not rated yet Dec 28, 2016
IF you have no logic, no education, can't look around you and see the obvious and have no conscience. Yeah. What's obvious is that pretty much describes you.


An impressive counter-argument based on facts and logic..... grats. Since most of the recommended 'solutions' to these problems are to greatly reduce human population levels, you could be a great example by not reproducing and terminating yourself. Do it for the animals.... do it for Gia.
MarsBars
4 / 5 (4) Dec 28, 2016
What is so specialized about the cheetah that doesn't apply equally to lions, leopards, tigers, lynx, cougars and other medium to large wild cats?


Cheetahs are high speed specialists. They build is less robust than other cats and their prey is far more limited compared to other cats. Where they hunt is also more restricted than other cats. Kinda obvious if you think about it.

That is the niche that cheetahs evolved to occupy as predators a very long time ago. As I stated in my original post: "cheetahs are no more specialized now than they have been for millennia." Human activity is the reason why the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range and as a result is endangered.

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