Cheetah heading towards extinction as habitat shrinks

Cheetah heading towards extinction as habitat shrinks The fastest animal on land is heading rapidly towards extinction, with depleting habitats and poaching to blame for the plummeting numbers.

According to a report published in the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, an estimated 7,100 cheetahs remain in the wild across Africa and a small area of Iran, with human encroachment to blame for pushing the cats out of 91 percent of their historic habitat.

The report said that cheetahs had been virtually wiped out in Asia, with fewer than 50 left in Iran.

Consequently, the report recommends the cheetah to be defined as "endangered" instead of the less serious "vulnerable" on an official watch list of threatened species worldwide.

"This period is really crunch time for species like cheetah that need these big areas," said Sarah Durant, a lead author of the report and cheetah specialist at the Zoological Society of London.

The study said about 77 percent of cheetah habitats fall outside wildlife reserves and other protected areas, requiring outreach to governments and villages to promote tolerance for a carnivore that sometimes hunts livestock.

Besides habitat loss, cheetahs face attacks from villagers, loss of antelope and other prey that are killed by people for their meat, an illegal trade in cheetah cubs, the trafficking of cheetah skins and the threat of getting hit by speeding vehicles.
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