The world's fastest land animal, Cheetah, could be sprinting toward extinction, a new study reports. The report estimates that, only 7100 Cheetahs are left in the wild on Earth. This is the best estimate yet of the global cheetah population, according to study's lead author Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London.
The National Wildlife Federation reports that most of the decline in number has been in past 100 years. The current number is down from an estimated 100,000 at the end of the 19th century.
According to the study, more than half the world's surviving cheetahs live in one population that ranges across six countries in southern Africa. The population of Cheetah in Asia has been essentially wiped-out. An estimated number of only 50 individual Cheetahs is recorded in Iran. Durant said, noting that of the 18 groups of wild cheetahs that scientists have studied in Africa, 14 were decreasing.
In Zimbabwe, the population of Cheetah has been plummeted drastically, from 1200 to about 170 in 16 years, representing an astonishing loss of 85% of the country's cheetahs.
Cheetahs are in trouble because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans.
Because the cheetah is one of the widest-ranging carnivores, it roams across lands far outside protected areas. Some 77% of their habitat falls outside these parks and reserves. As a result, the animal struggles because these lands are increasingly being developed by farmers and the cheetah's prey is declining because of bushmeat hunting.
Dr Sarah Durant said, “ Due to the reticent nature of this cat, it has been quite grueling to gather relevant information about the species, leading to its plight being overlooked.”
She further added,
"The large space requirements for the cheetah, along 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."
One of the big reasons behind Cheetahs extinction is illegal trafficking. Since CCF began tracking the illegal trafficking of cheetahs in 2005, it has recorded approximately 800 cheetahs, cheetah cubs, or cheetah products –such as skins or dewclaw items, in nearly 200 cases. These numbers indicate that, poaching is increasing.
Another main concern associated with the extinction has been the illegal trafficking of cubs, fuelled by demand from the Gulf states, as reported by the BBC, earlier this year.
The report suggests that, the young cubs can fetch up to $10,000 on the black market. According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, some 1,200 cheetah cubs are known to have been trafficked out of Africa over the past 10 years but around 85% of them died during the journey.
Scientists estimate the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range.
Title image: chrisdixonstudios