Cheetahs – the world’s fastest land animals capable of clocking 112 km/h – are slowly but surely edging toward extinction and may not be seen anymore in the years to come.
A new research conducted by the UK-based Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has shown that there are currently about 7 100 cheetahs only left in the wild, down from over 100 000 in the 20th century.
Most of these surviving fleet-footed cats are living in Africa, with just over 50 still remaining in Iran (Asia). The Zimbabwe cheetah population is said to have plummeted by 85%, according to the findings.
Habitat loss, illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and the exotic pet trade, as well as humans hunting their prey, among others, seem to the leading causes of this falling population, the Guardian revealed this week, quoting an article written by leading researchers’ that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The alarming development has become a great cause of concern for scientists and animal rights activists, who believe that an urgent action is needed to stop these animals from disappearing forever.
“This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date,” Dr Sarah Durant, from ZSL and WCS, , was quoted by London-based Guardian newspaper as saying. Dr Durant is the project leader for the Rangewide conservation programme
“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.”
Cheetahs, long considered as arrogant, fiery and cheeky carnivores, need a lot of space to live and hunt. Scientists said 77% of their remaining habitat fall outside protected areas, leaving the animal especially vulnerable to human impacts.