Why are cheetahs endangered?

You have to ask why cheetahs are endangered almost every year because the cheetah population is declining rapidly and things are changing on the ground constantly. It is said that the planet is entering its sixth mass extinction and global warming is contributing to it dramatically.

Female cheetah and cubs
Female cheetah and cubs. Image by Carole Henderson from Pixabay .
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If you want to find out why the cheetah is endangered the people charged with assessing the problem are those who run the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They say….

The threats to the cheetah as at 2020 include: agriculture and aquaculture-livestock farming and ranching, transportation and service corridors i.e. roads and railroads, biological resource use which includes hunting and trapping terrestrial animals, human intrusions and disturbance which includes recreational activities, war, civil unrest and military exercises and invasive and another problematic species, genes and diseases.

Low population density

The cheetah is particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation because they are a wide ranging carnivore living in low densities at never much more than two individuals per 100 km². The low population density of the cheetah means that they require larger areas to live in and survive which makes them more sensitive to pressures and threats. Viable subpopulations of cheetah require areas of land in excess of 10,000 km². We are told, however, that they can live in modified landscapes provided the circumstances are adequate.

Farmers – conflict

Threats by farmers because the cheetah is in conflict with them over livestock occurs when the cheetah lives outside protected areas. Cheetahs do kill livestock although they prefer wild animals. Farmers retaliate by killing cheetahs. There is a big conflict with “game farmers”. Although farmers find them difficult to kill in part because cheetahs rarely scavenge and therefore are more difficult to poison than other top predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas.

Prey animals

Loss of prey animals for the cheetah is another problem. Farmers are involved in habitat conversion and there are high livestock densities and grazing pressures which impact cheetah populations. Loss of prey animals results in cheetahs attacking livestock more often which leads to increased conflict with livestock farmers.


People who trap animals for bush meat using snares can also trap cheetahs even though they are obviously not the primary target. Snared cheetahs are reported occasionally according to the experts. This may threaten some subpopulations particularly those which are isolated and small.


Cheetah road kill - Iran
Cheetah road kill – Iran. Photo: public domain.

Motorways and highways threaten the cheetah because they break up the cheetah’s home landscape. They become fragmented. An example is the Nairobi-Mombasa road which cuts across the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The cheetah is present in Iran, just. In that country 11/27 cheetah mortalities between 2005 and 2011 were due to traffic accidents. Traffic accidents also occur in Africa such as on roads passing through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Other road kills have been reported on other roads including in South Africa, Zambia and can you. These mortalities “significantly impact on the viability of small and isolated populations of cheetah”.


Cheetah loses impala due to tourism
Cheetah loses impala due to tourism

Tourism which is unregulated can have a negative impact upon cheetah populations. Large numbers of tourists and their vehicles can interfere with cheetahs’ hunting and can scare them away from kills which they are unlikely to return to. Tourist can also separate mothers from their offspring. This can lead to cub mortality as has taken place and been reported in Serengeti National Park and Mara Reserve. There have also been reports of tourist vehicles running over cubs in the Mara Reserve. This happens when is a scramble to get photographs.


Infectious diseases are not a major threat to the cheetah because they live in such low densities.

Skins – Pets

In some areas the cheetah is hunted for their skin and also the cultural uses. There is an illegal trade in cheetah cubs to be shipped to the Gulf states where they become pets.


Mining, pipelines, roads and railways to service increased commercial activity perhaps managed by Chinese experts from China looking for minerals and metals to service their burgeoning manufacturing industries is also an emerging threat to the cheetah. They fragment further the cheetah’s home ranges dividing it into smaller and smaller subpopulations which may become unviable.


In eastern, southern and western Africa habitat loss and fragmentation is identified as a primary threat. In northern Africa and Iran reductions in wild ungulate prey is a major factor in the endangerment of the cheetah.

Decreasing population

It is unsurprising to report that the current population trend is “decreasing”. The number of mature individuals we are told is 6,674, which seemed remarkably small to me. The future for the cheetah is dire in my honest opinion.

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