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Cheetahs On The Verge Of Extinction

First Posted: Dec 29, 2016 03:20 AM EST
Cheetah
Cheetahs are in peril as their habitat shrinks because of human development and farming.
(Photo : Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It has not been a good year for giant cats, with cheetahs now on the verge of becoming extinct.

According to The Washington Post, over 100,000 cheetahs have prowled the African grasslands a little over a century ago, but the numbers have since dwindled down, leaving only 7,100 today.

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences had researchers calling for the cheetah's conservations status to be raised to "endangered" to reflect their numbers and hopefully start to stave off declines. The study's lead author, Sarah Durant, from the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society, noted that the secretive nature of the cat has made it difficult for scientists to gather information, thus overlooking their safety these past years.

"Our findings show that the large space requirements for the cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought," she shared.

The study also noted that over half of the world's surviving cheetah population live in one area over the six countries in Africa -- Asian numbers, according to BBC News, have essentially been wiped out, leaving fewer than 50 individuals in Iran.

Cheetahs are among the widest-ranging carnivores, roaming on lands far outside their set protected areas. In fact, around 77 percent of their habitat ventures outside parks and reserves, leaving them to struggle in areas that have increasingly been developed by farmers. Their increasing conflict with humans put them in more danger due to bushmeat hunting and black market trade: young cats are said to sell for up to $10,000.

Despite the loss, however, the Mara area in southwest Kenya and the Serengety National Park in Tanzania still offers these cats a refuge, Femke Broekhuis of the Mara Cheetah Project told The New York Times.

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