Wild cheetahs face extinction by 2030: Experts
25 Apr 2013
The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah survived mass extinction during the last ice age 10,000 years ago, but it took man only a few decades to put the predator in the list of endangered species. However, experts warn it could disappear from the wild by 2030.
Unlike rhinos and elephants though, the cheetah was not a target in Africa's poaching bloodbath. But it was the only big cat to adapt poorly in wildlife reserves as its natural habitat was increasingly wiped out.
According to Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia who spoke to a news agency, cheetahs were not able to do well in protected wildlife reserves due to increased competition from other larger predators, such as lions and even the scavenginh hyenas, that thrived in protected areas.
She added most protected areas were not able to maintain viable cheetah populations. In the early 20th century, the global cheetah population stood at around 100,000 with populations throughout Africa, the Middle East and several Asian countries.
There were barely 10,000 in the wild today, in Africa, and a small population in Iran which was critically endangered.
According to big cat NGO Panthera, cheetahs had disappeared from 77 per cent of their original territory in Africa.
Apart from their inability to thrive in protected areas, there were a number of other factors that were contributing to the problem. One of these was that 90 per cent of cheetahs in Africa lived alongside humans, and were often in conflict with farms that had livestock.
Natural inbreeding that dated back to the last ice age was also another handicap that the cheetah faced. Every single cheetah that was alive today was as closely related, basically as if it were another's twin. The Cheetah Conservation Fund said this had led to a genetic bottleneck.
However, the odds notwithstanding, a number of game farm owners were still trying to save the big cat.
One farm owner, Damien Vergnaud, who owned a 10,000-hectare Inverdoorn private reserve in South Africa, says he hoped that three cheetahs would be released in a totally wild environment, hopefully with minimal human interaction.