There are numerous reasons why the cheetah is endangered most of which are listed below but the overarching reason is human activity. Humans are squeezing the cheetah off the planet.
If you want to find the reason why the cheetah is endangered you need look no further than the IUCN Red List. In their classification they list this species of wild cat as Vulnerable although, there are calls to relist it as Endangered.
Cheetahs are caught and traded illegally as pets. They are also hunted for their skin. CITES allows a quota of trophy hunting specimens from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This is surprising considering this animal is endangered. Legal trade in this species of cat amounted to 153 animals per year representing hunting trophies from Namibia with 88 captive animals mainly from South Africa. The illegal trade in cheetahs is not being addressed adequately. Most of the pet trade in cheetahs is for the Gulf states. They like to keep them as pets in places like Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia for example. Cheetah skins are traded in China. If a cheetah sub-population is small even low levels of illegal trade can threaten that population.
Illegal trade in cheetahs is most likely to occur in East Africa. The illegal trade in cheetahs has been going on for a long time and there have been confiscations for example of cheetah cubs smuggled out of Somalia. As mentioned, the ownership of cheetahs and other exotic big cats is prized in the Gulf region. You can see individuals driving around in flash cars with a cheetah in the front seat. Owners in these countries have little knowledge of the dietary needs of this wild cat species. This can lead to the ill-health of the animal.
Cheetah skins can be found on shoes in Sudan. Some businesses in South Africa (where there is legal trading of cheetah trophies) are engaged in illegal trading under cover of the legality of the trade. There have been reports of illegal international transportation of live captured wild cheetahs between South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Even though there are an estimated 50 cheetahs in Iran there are still occasional reports of the capture of individual animals which would have a severe impact upon this critically endangered sub-population. These are more reasons why the cheetah is endangered.
Although there is not much hard information about population decline, the cheetah range has declined by about 89% it is estimated. This is due to habitat loss and fragmentation of their territory. There is also the killing and capture of cheetahs because they prey on livestock. In addition there is loss of cheetah prey which means that the animal has nothing to eat.
There’s been a constant rate of decline in their territory over about a hundred years. The rate of decline averages about 2.26% per year. There has been estimated 29% decline in cheetah territory over the last three generations. In short, the cheetah is losing its home due to pressure from human population growth and consequential activities. Cheetahs have been removed from huge areas of their historic range. 10% of their range exists. The only place they are present in Asia is in Iran at an incredibly low number of about 50.
Traffic and Snares
Sometimes cheetahs are caught in snares set to capture bush meat despite the fact that they aren’t the primary target. Traffic on roads can sometimes kill cheetahs. Between 2005 and 2011, in Iran, 11 cheetahs were killed on roads out of a total mortality of 27 known cheetah deaths.
Tourism can also threaten the survival of the cheetah. Large numbers of tourist vehicles together with insensitive behavior from tourists can have a negative impact upon the hunting behaviour of cheetahs. It can scare them away. It can also separate mothers from cubs. There are reports of vehicles running over cubs in the Mara reserve to allow tours to take good photographs. This is another reason why the cheetah is endangered.
Infectious diseases are not a major issue because of the low density of this wild cat species.
Business activity such as mining, roads, railways, pipelines etc. are also a threat because it fragments cheetah sub-populations into smaller sub-populations making survival less likely.
As at the date of this article, the known population of the cheetah on the planet is about 6,600 adults together with adolescents. The cheetah needs a huge area and for this reason they have a very low density where they are found. This means that they need connected areas for their survival. As 76% of the areas where the cheetah is found is on unprotected land and their populations are fragmented, the future is precarious.
It goes without saying that their numbers are declining year-on-year. Cheetah populations will continue to decline. This is why the cheetah is endangered.