Earthfiles Homepage Earthfiles Homepage
Environment





LOGIN
LOGOUT

HELP


Add to My Yahoo!
Earthfiles Podcast


Earthfiles, news category.







 


Click here for Linda Moulton Howe's 2017 Bio.

Only 7,000 Cheetahs Left In World — 21st Century Extinction?

© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe

 

“All we can say for cheetah is they're now confined to only 9%
of their historical range. And if you look at Asia, it's down to 2%.”

- Sarah Durant, Ph.D., Sr. Research Fellow, Zoological Society
of London and Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society, London, and Namibia, Africa.

 


Cheetahs are the fastest animals on Earth and can reach 75 mph in runs
after gazelles and impala, their food in the balance of Nature.


Cheetah mother and her three cubs. Lions and hyenas kill cheetah cubs for food. Humans
capture cubs to sell as pets that will usually die in captivity. In the 1900s, cheetah roamed
over all of Africa. Today their original habitat has been cut down to only 9%
of what it was. Only 7,000 cheetahs are left on Earth. Image prehistoricpark.

Save Cheetahs from Extinction!

Donate to: Wildlife Conservation Society

Donate to: http://cheetah.org/you-can-help/

 

January 27, 2017 Namibia, Africa - I was stunned by The New York Times and National Geographic headlines in late December 2016 warning that “Cheetahs Are Dangerously Close to Extinction.” I remember a day in September 1985, after I had completed production on a documentary film in Ethiopia about child survival for UNICEF. My cameraman invited me to travel to his home in Nairobi, Kenya, and then visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve, a large game park in Kenya near the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania.

I was in a jeep with a reserve guide parked to quietly watch a large group of gazelles and impala in the distance. Suddenly jumping over the hood of the jeep was a gorgeous mother cheetah and she was running toward those small prey as fast as a car on a freeway. The guide pointed off to the right in tall grass and said, "Her baby is there. She needs to bring down food for that cub."

But the mother cheetah didn't get food after that fast run. As she ran back to her baby in the grass, we could see the cub rise up to greet her with a mewing sound. I loved them so much then as I do now. I cannot imagine Earth without cheetahs.

And yet the January 17, 2017, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reported that the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List is warning the beautiful cheetah could face extinction this century because of loss of habitat as human populations expand and the live trade in cheetah cubs for pets and adult skins for human clothes persist and even lions kill cheetah cubs in territorial conflicts.


Interview:


Sarah Durant, Ph.D., Sr. Research Fellow,
Zoological Society of London and Scientist,
Wildlife Conservation Society, London, and
Namibia, Africa.

 

 

Sarah Durant, Ph.D., Sr. Research Fellow, Zoological Society of London and Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society, London, and Mamibia, Africa: “I think people have always had a fascination with big cats. There's something hypnotic about them. So there's a real emotional connection to big cats that we see across a wide range of cultures. And what you've described so well, when you see cheetah hunting, and you see it in the wild, it does create this feeling of awe.

YES, AND I LOVE THE CHEETAH, AND WHEN I SAW THE NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE, "CHEETAHS IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION," I WAS STUNNED. WHY? HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?

One of the issues we face with cheetah, they move across 1,000 square kilometers. So wherever you have cheetah, you never have very many. That wouldn't have been a problem when their habitat was connected all across Africa, but now we've got small populations of cheetah that can just blink out very quickly because once you're down to less than 10 animals in some areas, you can lose those populations very quickly.

 

Why Are Cheetah Dying Out?

WHAT IS IT THAT IS HAPPENING AT THE HUMAN SIDE OF THIS EQUATION IN AFRICA THAT IS MAKING SO DIFFICULT FOR THE BEAUTIFUL CHEETAHS TO SURVIVE?

Africa's going through a period of rapid change. It's got a growing human population, so there's rapid change in the habitat where cheetah occurs. There's this big loss of habitat. Cheetah have fewer places where they can live, and it also means that that habitat is becoming more fragmented. Cheetah have been confined to smaller and smaller patches of habitat. Now the other problem they face is that where there may be habitat, there may not be prey because a lot of wild prey is being killed for bush meat, for protein. So in some areas where you have habitat, you may not have prey for cheetah.


A cheetah captured and caged to sell in the live pet trade.

And then in other areas, there's also a problem of trade in cheetah. There's a live trade that goes out from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf States.

DO YOU MEAN THE BEAUTIFUL SPOTTED COAT OF THE CHEETAH IS WHAT IS PRIZED FOR TRADE?

Two things. There's a live trade in cubs. So cheetahs are traded as pets even though they don't really survive well in captivity. And then there's also a trade in skins. And that's happened all across Africa, either within Africa, but also in Asia as well.

WHAT CAN THE ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY AND OTHERS, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MAKE EVERYBODY AWARE IN AFRICA AND AROUND THE WORLD THAT THESE CATS NEED TO BE PROTECTED AND WE'VE GOT TO REINFORCE OR REINVIGORATE LAWS THAT WOULD OUTLAW THE TRADE OF THESE SKINS, MAKE IT ILLEGAL TO HAVE THE BABIES OF THESE CATS? IS THAT PART OF WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO NOW?

So we're trying to work on all fronts. Cheetahs also hunt game, so they conflict with game ranchers. So that's another threat on the horizon.

WHAT DO THEY EAT?

The like gazelle-sized food. So in Serengeti, they'll eat Thomson's gazelle, Grant's gazelle, on the plains in the open grasslands. They also eat a lot of impala. In other environments they might eat springbok in Southern Africa, Dorcas gazelle in the Sahara Desert.


Adult cheetah catching small animal for food. Photo by Vim Van Den Heever.

 

Lions Will Eat Cheetah Cubs

ARE THE CHEETAH IN DIRECT COMPETITION WITH LIONS FOR THOSE SAME FOOD SOURCES?

Not normally because lions lack the speed to run down a lot of these gazelle species. And lions struggle to maintain the top speeds that you would need to hunt them. But they are killed by lions, so particularly the cubs may be killed by lions, and sometimes adults can be killed by lions.

THE LIONS WILL KILL CHEETAH CUBS?

Yes. Yes. So quite a lot of the mortality of cheetah cubs in the Serengeti is due to the lions.


Cheetah cub.

WELL, IF THERE IS NO DIRECT COMPETITION FOR FOOD SOURCES BETWEEN CHEETAHS AND LIONS BECAUSE THE LIONS CAN'T MOVE AS RAPIDLY AS CHEETAH, WHY WOULD THERE BE A NEED FOR THE CHEETAH TO ALWAYS BE MOVING AWAY FROM WHERE LIONS ARE?

Because lions may kill cheetah cubs. Or they may even kill an adult cheetah. Cheetahs need to keep a safe distance from lions. If they see lions, they'll normally move away around about a kilometer or so from any lions.

YOU WOULD THINK THAT ALL CATS WOULD HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF REVERENCE FOR EACH OTHER. IT'S SURPRISING THAT THE LION, ANOTHER BIG CAT, WOULD KILL THE CUBS OF THE CHEETAH. AND I'M LEFT WITH THE QUESTION, WHY?

Yes, so why, we can't answer that. We don't really know why they kill cheetah cubs. They don't eat cheetah cubs after they kill them, so it's not a straightforward predation. Where hyenas kill cheetah cubs, they'll normally just eat them. But with lions, they don't eat them. There's often a lot of territorial display, so they might roar, they might scent mark after killing a cheetah cub. I would hypothesize that they see cheetah cubs and they think, "Foreign cat," because lions will commit infanticide against—when male lions come into a pride and they take over the pride, they will kill the cubs.

So I think there may be a switch in them that just thinks, "Foreign cat," and then they will kill cheetah cubs because of that. Or they'll kill an adult cheetah because of that. There's no clear competition with cheetah because they tend to eat different prey. So I'm not sure the competition argument holds.

WHAT IS, RIGHT NOW, THE TOP OF YOUR PRIORITY LIST ON HOW TO START MAKING MAYBE, WHAT, SOME KIND OF A CONSERVATION AREA IN VARIOUS PARTS OF AFRICA WHERE THE CATS AND THE OTHER ANIMALS WOULD BE FREE TO LIVE AND ROAM AND NO HUMANS COULD EVER CROSS THOSE BOUNDARIES?

Most cheetahs live outside of protected areas. Cheetah—cheetah populations live outside the protected areas. So if we're going to see cheetah survive in the long term, we really have to grapple with how they can live alongside people. One of the things we argue in our paper in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences is that we really need a paradigm shift about conservation of the cheetah. We really need to look outside as well as inside protected areas and think about how we can support communities to live alongside animals like cheetah. One of the projects we're looking at establishing is cheetah landscapes, to work with communities, to work with governments to ensure that corridors and connectivity gets maintained for cheetah so that we don't end up with small isolated patches of cheetah populations that will just slowly blink out into extinction. All we can say for cheetah is they're now confined to nine percent of their historical range.

NINE PERCENT?

Yeah. So just nine percent of their historical range still has cheetah. And if you look at Asia, it's down to two percent.

TWO PERCENT?

Yeah. In Asia.

THE COUNTRIES IN WHICH CHEETAH HAVE HISTORICALLY RANGED, CAN YOU GIVE A LIST?

Pretty much all across Africa, all across the African continent into the Sahara Desert, and there is still a critically endangered cheetah population in the Sahara. And then in Asia they ranged across through to Indian through southwest Asia, and the population that survives now in Asia is in Iran. And Iran has a population of less than 50.

5-0?

Yeah. 5-0. Less than 50. That's all that remains of the Asian cheetah population.

WHAT IS IRAN DOING TO TRY TO PROTECT THE CHEETAH?

Iran has cheetah conservation programs in place. One of the problems that happens in Iran is that cheetahs are getting killed on the roads. It's put in speed restrictions where cheetahs occur. And there's a lot of NGOs also working in Iran. I think one of the issues Iran and a lot of countries face is that cheetah will depend on having populations of prey, and in a lot of areas, you're having overhunting of prey. And that means there's not that much available for cheetah.

TO EAT.

Yeah.

 

Extinction Forecast for Cheetah
This 21st Century?

DR. DURANT, WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE CHEETAH WILL BE EXTINCT BY THE END OF THE 21ST CENTURY?

By the end of the 21st century, I think there is a chance. I don't think cheetahs are going to go extinct tomorrow, although some of the populations may go extinct within the next decade. Some of them are down to a handful of individuals. But some of the larger populations will persist, at least in the short term. I would like to see our article as a wakeup call. The situation is getting to a point where we really need to act if we're going to save cheetah for the long term. And I'd like to see us really thinking seriously about how we can look at conservation and ensure that we have connected landscapes for wildlife and for people where we can actually live in a more harmonious coexistence alongside wildlife.

RIGHT. AND MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT WE COME BACK FULL CIRCLE TO A POINT THAT YOU MADE THAT HUMANS HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE NEXT TO WILD ANIMALS AND NATURE, OR WE'RE GOING TO LOSE ALL OF THAT. AND IF WE LOSE THAT, WE'RE GOING TO LOSE THE SPIRIT AND SOUL OF THE PLANET.

Yeah. And nature is where we came from. It's part of us. That is the key to our long term survival is being engaged with understanding, appreciating it, and nurturing nature.”

 

Also see:

• 08/28/2014 — Earth Life Is Dying In A 6th Mass Extinction As Great As Asteroid Hit 65 Million Years Ago - But This Time the Cause Is Humans.


For further information about 6th mass extinction of Earth now, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2016 ongoing of which a few are listed here.

• 11/03/2016 — Latest World Wildlife Report Shows Steep Declines — World's Vertebrate Populations Half of What They Were In 1970.
• 12/18/2015 — Will New Paris Climate Agreement Be Able to Limit Global Warming to 2 Degrees C. (3.6 deg. F.) Above Pre-Industrial Temperatures?
• 09/24/2015 — What Has Killed Nearly A Quarter Million Saiga Antelopes Since May 2015 in Central Kazakhstan?
• 08/31/2014 — Part 2: Is The Dulce ET Underground Lab Linked to ETs from Zeta Reticuli 1 and Sirius B?
• 08/28/2014 — Earth Life Is Dying In A 6th Mass Extinction As Great As Asteroid Hit 65 Million Years Ago - But This Time the Cause Is Humans.
• 08/27/2014 — Sea Stars Continue to Die By the Millions from Alaska to California: Is It A Virus?
• 08/15/2008 — Amphibian Warning Bell of Mass Extinctions
• 12/22/2001 — Scientists Warn That Climate and Earth Life Can Change Rapidly
• 10/25/1999 — A Mysterious "Perturber" at the Edges of Our Solar System


Websites:

"Cheetahs Are Dangerously Close to Extinction," December 27, 2016, National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/cheetahs-extinction-endangered-africa-iucn-animals-science/

"Cheetahs Heading Towards Extinction as Population Crashes," December 28, 2016: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38415906

"Cheetah Numbers Crashing; Extinction Possible," December 26, 2016, USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2016/12/26/cheetah-population-crashing-worldwide-extinction-possible/95854636/

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org


 

Credits  
Copyright © 1999 - 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe.
All Rights Reserved.
www.earthfiles.com
earthfiles@earthfiles.com

Republication and redissemination of the contents of this screen or
any part of this website are expressly prohibited without prior
Earthfiles.com written consent.

Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions
Refund Policy
 



















   

Copyright © 1999 - 2017 Earthfiles.com
All rights reserved.


[Valid RSS]