Cheetahs Are Going Extinct And No One Is Talking About It
"The problem is very intense, and I think we're just getting an understanding of how intense it is."
Cheetahs, the world's fastest animals, are sprinting toward extinction, and the world is just now taking notice.
"The problem is very intense, and I think we're just getting an understanding of how intense it is," Dr. Kim Young-Overton, cheetah program director for Panthera, and one of the study's authors, told The Dodo.
The news gets worse. Besides having a scant population, cheetahs have been driven out of nearly 91 percent of their historic range. Cheetahs have already been eradicated from Asia, and there are only about 50 individuals left in Iran, according to the study. Today, the majority of cheetahs live in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique.
The biggest threat to cheetahs? You guessed it - people. Not only do people destroy the animals' natural habitat by building roads, houses and farms, they also hunt cheetahs, capture and sell them in the exotic pet trade, poach them for their skins and body parts and accidentally hit them in cars.
Unless something is done to protect cheetahs and their habitat, Young-Overton expects cheetah populations to decline even further in the future.
Despite these concerns, cheetahs are currently only listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Katherine du Plessis, a wildlife biologist who has worked with Cheetah Conservation Botswana, believes that a lack of information - and the cheetah's elusive nature, which has made it hard to obtain information - has a lot to do with this.
"IUCN has not given cheetahs endangered status because of a lack of information on the decline of the species," du Plessis told The Dodo. "Because cheetah are rare, elusive and found at very low densities over a very wide area from Africa to Asia, they are very hard to count and it is hard to estimate a decline."
This recent study will hopefully change things, and cheetahs will get the endangered status they deserve. "It would be an incredibly important acknowledgement to their vulnerability to extinction," Young-Overton said.
"We need to get wildlife biologists to work together if we want to protect a large, elusive, rare, widespread species like the cheetah," du Plessis said. "This recent publication may be a pivotal moment for changing the status of cheetahs from vulnerable to endangered, and it highlights the great need for collaboration in order to protect wildlife."
To support cheetah research and conservation in Botswana, you can make a donation to Cheetah Conservation Botswana here.