Towards the end of 2016, the world was mourning two painful deaths. Beloved celebrities Carrie Fisher and George Michael were no more – just at the twinkle of an eye. How fast death snatches from us before we even realizes it. The news of their demise was all over major news websites, newspapers and news programmes. But in the midst of all these surprising news, came out the harrowing news flash – it revolved around the cheetah.
After the lion or tiger, the cheetah easily ranks as everyone’s second favorite big cat. The sad news is that it is becoming distinct at a rate much faster than we ever thought. The current estimates is that the world only has cheetahs alive in the wilderness. These numbers should get you worried considering that they are currently living in only 9 percent of their former habitats.
Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently carried out a study. Their finding was that Asian population now exists in just one small pocket in Iran, where less than 50 cheetahs can be found. It is so unfortunate that the numbers are not doing well either in Africa. For instance, The number of cheetahs in Zimbabwe has declined by about 85% in this country famous for having had only one president since independence. As a result of the worrying trend, experts are of the opinion that cheetahs should be on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. They should no longer be treated as vulnerable but instead be regarded as endangered. Such a move would pave the way for more effort to save the amazing cat.
Yes we have great parks that are used to protect native wildlife. Unfortunately these also have their fair share of troubles. It will surprise that we human beings are the main triggers of the cheetah extinction. We mainly do this through agriculture and livestock farming. We invade the cheetah habitat and forcibly evict them. The mode of eviction defers and may involve killing if need be. Each single cheetah we put to death helps greatly in reducing the 7,100 cheetahs in the entire world.
Even as we invade the wildlife habitat, what we are basically doing is lower the number of prey. Fewer habitats directly translate to less prey and less space for the cheetah. The cheetahs are known to depend on a larger ground for a perfect hunting. We therefore starve them to death, whether willingly or unwillingly. I am sorry to mention that the same hunters who invade the cheetah homestead still kill the wild animals with fears that their livestock will be attacked.
So, we can see that major factor helping in reducing the number of cheetahs is basically hunting and killing most of the prey that cheetahs depend on. These preys include impalas, gazelles, antelopes, warthogs and many others. The advantage is that the rate at which the cheetahs themselves are hunted is less and also they have fewer threats to their existence. But remember that with each failed attempt to catch a prey, there is a high likelihood that getting a meal the second round is close to impossibility. They starve to death living behind young ones that also die of starvation.
That makes it vital to consider what we do as human beings. Conservation of the cheetah should be among the top government plans. Just the same way we take care of the elephants and rhinos experiencing a similar problem, we need to have policies that support sustainable co-existence of humans and wildlife. If we are unable to change people’s attitudes and encourage them to live harmoniously with the cheetah, then let the world prepare to lose the magnificent cat for good.