Cheetah population plummeting toward extinction – Chicago Tribune

More than 100,000 cheetahs prowled Africa’s arid grasslands little more than a century ago. But the powerful predators now number just 7,100, and their populations are plummeting toward extinction, according to a new report.

In a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers called for cheetahs’ conservation status to be raised to “endangered,” to reflect their low numbers and stave off further declines.

“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,’ lead author Sarah Durant, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement. “Our 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.”

Cheetahs, the fastest animals on land, require home ranges that can span thousands of miles. Their habitat once extended across Africa all the way to southwestern Asia. But it has been fragmented by humans, and the population is divided as a result. This splintered existence makes survival even more difficult for animals; without genetic diversity from breeding with unrelated animals, each fragile group becomes even more vulnerable to disease, food shortages and environmental change.


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