Racing to Save the Wild Cheetah
Advocacy Cheetahs are on a crash-course with extinction. Less than 100 years ago there were 100,000. Today there are less than 10,000.
The cheetah is the oldest of all the African big cat species, with origins dating back more than 4 million years. Once found throughout Asia and Africa, these beautiful cats are now only scattered in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with fewer than 100 remaining in Iran.
Unless more people get involved in the race to save them, there will soon not be enough cheetahs left to save.
Sources of danger
Cheetahs are threatened by human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, poaching and indiscriminate trapping and shooting. This is because most cheetahs live on farmlands shared with people and livestock. Factors like climate change and human population growth exacerbate conflict by increasing competition over less available land.
On top of this, approximately 300 cheetah cubs are smuggled out of the Horn of Africa each year to supply the illegal pet trade, primarily destined for Middle East Gulf States. Five out of six cubs will die along the way; the remainder will likely suffer from poor nutrition and lack of healthcare and eventually become sick or disabled and die prematurely.
The iconic cat
Built for speed, cheetahs are equipped with blunt, semi-tractable claws (think spiked shoes on a world-class sprinter) and tails that act like rudders. A flexible spine, oversized liver, enlarged heart, wide nostrils, increased lung capacity, keen eyesight and thin, muscular build make this cat the swiftest hunter in Africa.
"Approximately 300 cheetah cubs are smuggled out of the Horn of Africa each year to supply the illegal pet trade."
They are icons of pop culture, with many businesses, sports teams and celebrities referencing them through their brands. Despite their unique qualities and popularity, cheetahs have sadly become Africa’s most endangered big cat.
We can help
Diligent efforts of committed conservationists, strategies to mitigate conflict—like the advancement of conservancies, which are community-based partnerships that manage wildlife populations— job training to enhance livelihoods of rural residents and the adoption of livestock guarding dogs, are all improving the outlook for the species. In the cheetah stronghold of Namibia, these solutions have helped the population stabilize and grow, earning the country its nickname “Cheetah Capital of the World.”
People in Namibia are learning to co-exist with predators and prey. They understand that wildlife brings tremendous value to the economy, as it drives eco-tourism. They know that each species plays a role in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem and that a healthy ecosystem is good for all species, including humans.
By communicating about the cheetah crisis, which is easier now than ever because of new technologies, we can also share solutions with organizations in all cheetah home range territories and with people everywhere wishing to save this magnificent species for future generations. Please join the conversation.