Our recent report on global cheetah decline provides alarming reading. ZSL's Dr. Sarah Durant, lead author of the research and Project Leader for the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, explains more in this blog.
Recent extinctions have been documented in western and central Africa, and there has been an estimated decline of 85% in Zimbabwe over the last 16 years. For those cheetah populations where there is sufficient information, most are declining. This evidence, together with ongoing pressures outside protected areas, led us to recommend that the IUCN Red List threat status of cheetah is up-listed from Vulnerable to Endangered.
The worsening of the threat status of cheetah should act as a wakeup call. Urgent action is needed if the survival of cheetah is to be secured.
In the Sahara, where a critically endangered population of cheetah still survives, we have documented densities as low as only one cheetah per 4,000km2. Thus cheetah need conservation over a much larger scale than is usually seen in terrestrial conservation.
To halt cheetah decline, we will have to surmount the difficulties of conserving a rare, wide-ranging and elusive big cat. But we also have to confront the realities of conservation in the developing countries where cheetah still survive.
Communities who share their land with cheetah may face a daily challenge just to feed themselves and their families. They cannot afford to pay the costs of losing their precious livestock to cheetah, even if this is a relatively rare event.
That there is international public support for cheetah and other iconic megafauna is beyond doubt. This is evidenced by millions of international visitors who may travel thousands of miles to see such wildlife, and by the further millions who avidly watch wildlife programs streaming into their homes. We only lack effective means to channel the value that this wildlife generates into local communities that bear the real costs of living with cheetah and other problematic species.
Yet much has already been achieved. ZSL’s and WCS’s joint Range Wide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dog has been working with range state governments for nearly 10 years, and have helped to put in place Regional Strategies and National Action Plans that provide a roadmap for the conservation of cheetah together with African wild dogs (the latter a species with similar ecology and facing similar threats to cheetah).
These strategies and plans have the strong support of range state governments and conservation NGOs and lay out a list of all the actions that need to be undertaken to secure the survival of both species. More resources are needed to implement these roadmaps, and we also need innovative new ways for communities to benefit from the presence of wildlife.
For cheetah, we urgently need to find the political will and the financial means to enable people and wildlife to coexist, and for both to prosper. Only then can we be sure that future generations will be able to continue to marvel at the sight of a cheetah at full speed, which approach those seen on our fastest motorways. If we fail, the fate of the cheetah will be in doubt.
*This blog also appears on National Geographic
Select a blog
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.
Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!
We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.
From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.
Ever wondered what a typical day as a zookeeper looks like, or what it's like to be a videographer at ZSL? Now you can find out!
Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.
Read extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.
Get updates on our latest ranges, be the first to hear about special offers, and find the perfect gift for animal lovers!
The Chagos archipelago is a rare haven for marine biodiversity. Hear from the team about our projects to protect the environments in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.
An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.