Cheetahs “could soon be lost forever,” with a new study showing their numbers “crashing globally” as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal poaching, and other human-caused threats. 

The study, led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), reveals that just 7,100 cheetahs remain around the world—mostly in Africa, with a small pocket of about 50 individuals in Iran. Furthermore, the world’s fastest land mammal has been driven out of 91 percent of its historic range, according to the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and considered the most comprehensive species analysis to date.

Its authors are pointing to the findings as evidence that the cheetah should be moved from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s “Red List” of threatened species. 

“We’ve just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction, said Panthera’s Cheetah Program director, Dr. Kim Young-Overton. “The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough. We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-ranging cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”


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