Big Cats on the Brink: Cheetahs
Lions aren’t the only big cat facing extinction. Cheetahs, the fastest land mammals on earth, are rapidly disappearing. “In fact, cheetahs are the most vulnerable of the world’s big cats, surprisingly rare and growing steadily rarer.”[i] The only mammal on earth who can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds is critically endangered, with only 7,100 remaining.[ii]
Causes of Extinction
- Illegal Wildlife Trafficking
The Middle East is driving illegal cheetah trafficking because the animals are status symbols for the wealthy. According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund 112 cheetahs were imported in 2012, and the number reached 78 in the first nine months of 2013, indicating a rise in trade.[iii] That nearly two-thirds die en route only adds to the tragedy.[iv]
- Habitat Loss
Cheetahs need vast swaths of land for hunting. Human expansion has eroded their habitat and therefore, hindered their ability to hunt.
- Human-Animal Conflict
Cheetahs hunt livestock, but unlike many other predators, they do some of their hunting during the day. The Cheetah Conservation Fund notes that this often causes them to be wrongly blamed for livestock killings.[v] Villagers see them hunt during the day and assume they are responsible for many livestock killings. The cheetahs then become the targets of retaliatory killings.
Effects of Cheetah Extinction
Like lions, cheetahs are apex predators; their extinction will also have a “cascading effect” on the environment and the economy.
[i]. Roff Smith, “Cheetahs on the Edge,” National Geographic, November 2012. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/cheetahs/smith-text. Accessed February 18, 2015.
[ii]. Petri, Alexandra E. “Cheetahs are Dangerously Close to Extinction,” National Geographic, December 27, 2016. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/cheetahs-extinction-endangered-africa-iucn-animals-science/. Accessed March 10, 2017.
[iii]. “Fighting the Illegal Pet Trade,” Cheetah Conservation Fund. http://cheetah.org/what-we-do/human-wildlife-conflict/illegal-pet-trade/. Accessed February 18, 2015.
[iv]. Damian Carrington, “Cheetah Smuggling Driving Wild Population to Extinction, Report Says,” The Guardian, July 15, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/15/cheetah-smuggling-wild-luxury-pets-gulf. Accessed February 18, 2015.
[v]. Louise Dewast, “Giraffes in Danger of Extinction: Why Their Numbers Have Dropped,” ABC News, December 3, 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/International/giraffes-danger-extinction-numbers-dropped/story?id=27334959. Accessed February 18, 2015.