What is the current cheetah population?

Date: 2016…The answer is 6,674 (estimated) but read on please…People search for an answer to the question: What is the current cheetah population? The question is posed to ask what is the current world cheetah population in the wild. Note that this is about wild cheetahs. That is the only meaningful figure.

Cool picture Sarah and cheetah
Cool picture: Sarah and cheetah. Photo by Dan.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The first point to make is that any number is going to be an estimate and therefore it may be inaccurate. Estimates are likely to be too high for political reasons. Let’s remember that. What I mean is that if the numbers come from government agencies or organisation they want the numbers to be as high as possible to support their work on conservation and to justify sport hunting of the wild cat.

The best book on wild cat species, Wild Cats of the World by the Sunquists does not attempt to come to a global figure for the cheetah population – wise indeed. We just don’t know for sure.

The only fact we know for sure is that the population is decreasing and has done so consistently. The reason in round terms is because of increased human activity due to increased human numbers. The Sub-Saharan human population on the African continent is the fastest growing in the world. Human population growth is relentless. The cheetah is being squeezed off its ancient habitat by the disease that is humankind (David Attenborough called human population growth a sort of disease).


The best answer to the question in the title is probably to be found on the IUCN Red List website. This organisation is concerned with conservation and therefore are obliged to keep a close eye on current population numbers and whether it is decreasing or increasing.

The Red List says that the number is “very provisionally estimated at around 6,674 adults and independent adolescents.”

Note the how the statement is heavily qualified with words such as “very provisionally” (this means we are not sure) and “estimated” (this also means we are not sure). Don’t presume this figure is accurate. If it is accurate it is due to luck.

The figure 6,674 seems very small to me for a worldwide total figure for the number of cheetahs. Think of a football stadium or a baseball stadium holding 60,000 people. If that stadium were to be 90% empty the crowd would be the approximate number of cheetahs left on the planet.

The defenders.org website states that there are 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs in the wild. They say there were 100k in 1900. They don’t tell us where they get that number from. It is probably incorrect.

The website: cheetah.org say that there are 10k cheetahs on the planet (a guess no doubt) and that the population was 100k in 1900. They are probably the source for the defenders.org website. This is guesswork.

The Wikipedia authors also rely in the IUCN Red List as I have. So the best numbers are still shaky and uncertain. Please note that.

There is a continuing decline in mature individuals. There are 29 subpopulations. The Red List provides a complete breakdown of the total so for instance there are 2,572 in Eastern Africa.

To conclude this post, the IUCN says this about their estimated numbers:

“The population estimates so derived for Cheetah as presented here, including the expert based estimates, should be treated with extreme caution and are provided as an indication only…..”

Conclusion: Numbers continue to decline and we don’t know for sure how many cheetahs are living in the wild on the planet in 2016.

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