There are two subspecies of Cheetahs, the African subspecies and the Asiatic subspecies. The African subspecies are classified as threatened whereas the Asiatic subspecies are categorized as critically endangered. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) considers them as endangered animals, while International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as vulnerable.
Cheetahs were once found throughout Africa, and in large parts of Asia. But, today, they have almost become extinct in Asia. It is believed that only 12,400 cheetahs are left in the wild in Africa with the largest population of about 2,500 numbers in Namibia. About 50 to 60 individual species of Asiatic cheetahs are believed to be alive in Iran.
Causes of Endangerment of Cheetahs
A number of factors combined together are responsible for the poor condition of this endangered animal. Primarily, the development activities of man have caused habitat loss to this animal, and made them homeless. It has also caused a decline in the numbers of their prey.
Poaching is another reason for decline in the numbers of this animal. They are widely hunted for sport, and their hides are sold at the premium price in the black market. Moreover, they are killed by the farmers when they attack their livestock.
Genetic inbreeding due to their limited gene pool is yet another cause of their declining numbers. It puts them at greater risk of contaminating diseases.
High mortality rate of cheetah cubs has raised another concern for this endangered species. The mortality rate is around 90 percent, and many of them could not reach the adult age because of genetic factors and predation by carnivores. In Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve, their numbers have decreased from 60 to 45 in 2007.
Conservation of Endangered Cheetahs
Captive breeding of this animal has been successful. But, only when they can roam freely in the wild, without protected boundaries, their conservation could be called successful. For their complete recovery, many governments are initiating steps to ensure it.
A project from the government of India plans to bring back the cheetah. Fifty years after it became extinct in the country, the government of India has earmarked seven sites for implementation of their recovery plans. It includes national parks and other open areas across the four states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Chattisgarh.
In South Africa, De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Center near Johannesburg, the Research and Breeding Center for Endangered Species near Marulaneng, and the Cheetah Outreach on Spier Wine Estate near Cape Town are playing significant role in educating people about the endangered Cheetahs and their protection.
Another organization, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), in Namibia was established in 1990 with the sole mission to secure the habitats of this endangered animal. It is engaged in the conservation and research of this endangered species.
Therefore, an ecological imbalance would be created without Cheetahs. They form an essential part of our ecosystem and check the overgrowth of any species, which could become threatening with their overgrown numbers.