Cheetahs The Latest Animal To Be Screwed By 2016

Dec 27, 2016 at 1:19 PM ET

A new study published Monday has revealed that only 7,100 cheetahs remain worldwide, as the world’s fastest land animal continues to be forced out of its historic range. Researchers are calling for the cheetah, currently considered a “threatened” species, to be re-listed as “endangered” on the IUCN red list, which tracks animals’ conservation statuses.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was carried out by the Zoological Society of London, the World Conservation Society, and Panthera. Sarah Durant, ZSL/WCS lead author and Project Leader for the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, said that the study provided the most comprehensive analysis of the cheetah’s status in this day and age.

“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,” she said in a statement. “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.”

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Cheetahs are consistently threatened both in and out of protected areas and reserves, and they are gravely effected by habitat loss, prey loss due to overhunting by humans, and the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and cheetahs as exotic pets. However, 77 percent of the cheetah’s habitat falls outside of protected areas, which makes the cat particularly vulnerable to human impact. Zimbabwe’s cheetah population has fallen from 1,200 to a maximum of 170 animals in 16 years, while fewer than 50 cheetahs remain in one area of Iran.

Scientists are therefore calling for a “holistic conservation approach,” in which local communities and trans-national governments incentivize cheetah protection. “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,” Kim Young-Overton, Panthera’s Cheetah Program Director, said in a statement. “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 cheetah forever.”