Why are cheetahs threatened?

Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animals, capable of reaching speeds up to 70 miles per hour (113 kilometres per hour). However, their speed is not enough to save them from the threats they face.

Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This means that they are at a high risk of extinction in the wild. It is estimated that there were around 100,000 cheetahs globally in 1900, but they have since been driven out of 89% of their historic range. While there were perhaps 40,000 wild cheetahs in 1960, there were reportedly fewer than 20,000 by 1975. Today there are only about 7,100 cheetahs left in the world.

The main causes of this decline are:

  • Loss and fragmentation of habitat due to agriculture and urbanization
  • Segregation of the cheetah population into 29 sub-populations which compromised their genetic integrity
  • The escalation of conflict between cheetahs and humans, particularly in livestock farming regions, leading to further persecution of the species
  • Inadequate protection measures. Many conservationists believe the conservation status for cheetahs is insufficient and are calling for cheetahs to be uplisted to ‘endangered’ which will afford them better protection measures
  • The illegal breeding of cheetahs for the exotic pet trade has further compromised their genetic integrity

Of the 7,100 cheetahs remaining in the world, it is estimated that between 1,166 and 1,742 cheetahs live in South Africa, with about 600 of these in captivity. Some of these captive cheetahs are managed for release into protected areas where they can integrate with free-roaming populations and help diversify the gene pool of the cheetah metapopulation. Cheetah reintroductions and relocations are coordinated by the Metapopulation Initiative to increase the cheetahs’ resident range and improve their genetic and demographic status. Our Cheetah Rewilding Project contributes to the success of the cheetah metapopulation, serving as an intermediate phase for captive cats to learn how to become self-sufficient and ‘bush-savvy’ for life in the wild.

Additional information:

How to support our Cheetah Rewilding Project

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