A comprehensive assessment of cheetah populations in southern Africa reveals the dire state of Cheetahs.
In a study published, researchers present evidence that low cheetah population estimates in southern Africa and population decline support a call to list the cheetah as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
With partial support from the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, an international team of 17 researchers, analyzed more than two million collared cheetah observations.
The study estimates only 3,577 adult cheetahs exist in this extensive area, which is larger than France, and a majority (55 percent) of individuals are found within only two habitats. This estimate is 11 percent lower than the IUCN’s current assessment, supporting the call for the uplisting of cheetahs from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered.”
The researchers found that only 18.4 percent of cheetah range is within internationally recognized protected areas. Namibia exemplifies this, with much of cheetah distribution overlapping with areas of livestock and game production.
Cheetahs are generally not observed in areas with high human and livestock densities. Most of South Africa, eastern Botswana, and the northern part of Namibia adjacent to Angola are above these thresholds, suggesting cheetahs would be absent.
While the differences between estimate of cheetah distribution and that produced by the IUCN may appear small, they have important implications for conservation.
This assessment, with an estimated range size lower than the IUCN estimate and an estimated adult cheetah population of approximately 3,577 free-ranging animals, supports the conclusion to review the cheetah’s threat status and consider up-listing the species to endangered status.