Cheetahs are one of the fastest land mammals in the world; unfortunately, these flatfooted felines are also speeding toward extinction.
Once, more than 100,000 cheetahs roamed the African savanna and parts of Asia. Now, according to Defenders of Wildlife, only 9,000 to 12,000 remain, while the BBC offers figures as low as 7,100. Cheetahs are found in small pockets in the rest of the world’s sanctuaries, and about 200 can be found in Iran, but these outliers may not be enough to save the species.
Cheetahs aren’t actually capable of producing a roar, rather a continuous purr like the domesticated house cat, which may have prompted humans in ancient Sumerian or Asia to tame the cat for hunting.
Among the major threats to the cheetah population in the wild are the jackals, hyenas, lions or birds that abscond with cheetah cubs while their mother is hunting for food. Human farmland encroaching on cheetah turf doesn’t help their chances for survival, either. It’s estimated that half of all cheetah cubs are killed by predators, while other cubs succumb to illnesses no longer avoidable by a species with such a narrow genetic footprint.
In the wild, cheetahs will subsist on local ruminants like wildebeest, and even impala or gazelle when they’re up for a chase. Barreling ahead at up to 70 miles per hour toward its prey, the cheetah needs to rely on its tail as a rudder to stabilize its vector.
As we hope the cheetah population experiences an uptick soon, the same can be said of interest in the species. The urgency of this race toward extinction is not reflected in the mainstream media headlines where it might make the most impact. Has the world forgotten about cheetahs? Test your knowledge of this beautiful cat with our quiz below!
We all know it’s going to take more than a good grasp of cheetah trivia to bring this species back from the bring of extinction. Moving cheetahs from the IUCN’s “threatened” list to “endangered” will certainly raise awareness as well, but it’s going to take a worldwide effort to really make a difference.
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