The number of cheetahs left in the world at 2017 is about half the number of the estimate published in November 2016 by the organisation charged with working out whether this species of wild cat is endangered or not. Yes, it is worrying that the IUCN Red List’s estimate is about twice that of the population number of 3,577 adult cheetahs in southern Africa which is the biggest remaining habitat of this wild cat species.
The Red List classify this species as Vulnerable. A group of highly concerned and passionate scientists have conducted a new study, published in the journal, PeerJ, in which they pulled together millions of pieces of information from earlier cheetah observations and records to conclude the above adult cheetah figure. They are confident in the figure.
There is a buffer zone which could support a few thousand more. Therefore, they say that the maximum estimate of the number of cheetahs in southern Africa could optimistically be put at 6,800. They were not able to find hard information regarding cheetah numbers in the buffer zone and are therefore less confident with the higher figure.
Southern Africa contains the largest population of free-ranging cheetahs in the world. Almost all the world’s cheetahs are to be found in the less than 305,000 mi.² of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This is an area about the size of France.
The scientists are requesting that the Red List reclassify the cheetah as Endangered which will bestow upon this magnificent cat a status which would help to protect it. The cat needs protection because the study concluded that only 18.4% of the southern African cheetah ranges within internationally recognized protected areas such as the Kruger National Park. Most of the cats live on farmland where they are vulnerable to being killed by farmers in retaliation for killing livestock.
The cheetah is being pushed off its historic land by human activity and this will get distinctly worse over the years to come because Africa has the fastest rising human population in the world. In a few decades the African population will be around 4.5 billion. The long-term prospect for this wild cat species is bleak I am afraid.
There is a very small population of Asiatic cheetahs. They number about 40 animals. They are as good as extinct.
The Red List’s estimate of cheetah population as at the date of this post is roughly 6,700 adult and adolescent animals. As mentioned above, the true figure appears to be much less but as you can tell it is very hard to work out population sizes. Even this group of experts have provided us with a hard estimate of around 3,500 and an optimistic estimate of about twice that figure. This is quite a broad range.
The overriding conclusion is sadness. The number of cheetahs is becoming precarious in terms of survival. This is another iconic species, to join the lion, elephant and rhino, which is heading towards extinction in the wild unless drastic steps are taken.
Source: National Geographic presenting the study’s findings.