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One of the most magnificent animal icons in the world is in greater danger of becoming extinct than anyone realized. The cheetah, known for its incredible agility and top speed of 75 mph, is now racing against the clock for its very survival. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on threatened species, can help prevent this tragedy by upgrading cheetah status on their Red List to "endangered."
An important new study led by the Zoological Society of London, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Panthera has revealed that only 7,100 cheetahs remain in the wild. The lead author, Dr. Sarah Durant, calls the study the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date. She adds, "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."
Those threats are all caused by humans. Habitat fragmentation is the big one - a glaring 77% of cheetah habitat is unprotected today. Other major threats include conflict with livestock, deadly encounters with vehicles, and the deliberate theft of over a thousand cubs to be sold on the black market as high-status exotic pets. 85% of those cubs died after being stolen from their mothers.
The revised population total and the drastic decline of the cheetah population must not be ignored. The IUCN should recognize the gravity of the situation, and immediately raise the cheetah's conservation status from "vulnerable" to "endangered." The IUCN Red List is a vital tool that governments around the world use to allocate funding and resources to needed conservation efforts. This update will directly encourage the international community to strengthen protections for the cheetah, and could be the very key to their survival.
Nobody wants to see cheetahs disappear from the world forever. Tell the IUCN to act now.
Dear Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General:
The recent in-depth study of the global cheetah population conducted by the Zoological Society of London, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Panthera has revealed that the species Acinonyx jubatus is in greater danger of extinction than any of us realized. The current status of "vulnerable" is based largely on approximations that assume that the total population is over 10,000 individuals. It also assumes a decline of 30% over the last 3 cheetah generations.
The new study clearly shows that the species' decline is actually much greater than expected. 77% of cheetah habitat is unprotected. This leaves the 7,100 remaining individuals severely vulnerable to habitat loss, conflict with livestock, hunting, deadly encounters with vehicles, and poaching of cubs to feed the black market's exotic pet trade. Zimbabwe's cheetah population is a telling example, plummeting from over a thousand animals to just 170 in 16 years. That's a staggering 85% population loss.
The current population reduction rate based on this study would appear to fit the criteria for an "endangered" status, and the extinction probability in the near future is also higher than previously assumed. Surely this qualifies the cheetah, an iconic species, for the protections afforded by an official IUCN status of "endangered." Such a designation would help the international community to strengthen protections for the species, which could be the key to their very survival.
Please reevaluate the cheetah's status for the Red List, and change it from "vulnerable" to "endangered." We all want to see this species survive for future generations.