The remaining population of the cheetah in the wild hints that the world's fastest mammal is heading toward extinction.
Only 7,100 Cheetahs Left In The Wild
A new study that looked into the number of the speedy big cat estimated that there are only 7,100 of these animals left in the wild. The findings prompted calls for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to re-categorize the species from vulnerable to endangered.
More than half of the surviving cheetahs in the world thrive in southern Africa as the cheetahs in Asia are already essentially gone and a group in Iran only numbers less than 50.
The current estimated number of cheetahs is based on data from experts in areas where these animals live and estimates for other areas.
Cheetah specialist Sarah Durant, from the Zoological Society of London, who is the lead author of the report that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the number is currently the best estimate of the cheetah population globally.
"This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date," Durant said. "It is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought."
Why Cheetahs Are In Trouble
Conservationists are faced with the challenges of protecting the cheetah because the animal ranges far beyond the protected areas.
The animal is among the widest-ranging carnivores roaming across areas of land far outside protected areas. About 77 percent of the habitats of cheetahs are outside parks and wild reserves, the study revealed, and this requires outreach to government and villages to promote tolerance for the meat-eating animal that sometimes hunt people's livestock.
Because farmers increasingly develop lands, cheetahs face habitat loss. They also face threats of attack from villagers as well as see decline in their prey because of bushmeat hunting.
The impact of the major changes in land tenure on the species is evident in Zimbabwe where the animal's population fell from around 1,200 to just 170 animals in just 16 years.
Other Threats Faced By Cheetahs
Despite their declining numbers, cheetah cubs are illegally traded. The young cats sell by as much as $10,000 each on the black market. About 85 percent of the 1,200 cheetah cubs that have been trafficked out of Africa over the past decade died during the journey. The animal is likewise threatened by trafficking of their skins and getting hit by vehicles.