They might be the strongest, fastest, smartest animal that roams the plains of the Serengeti and hungrier than most but they are doomed. We are talking of the cheetah. This animal has to be valued and preserved for humanity. And the world needs to commit to that before it is too late.
This animal is the epitome of grace and savagery, of utmost calm and also furious action. It can sit still for hours without moving a muscle and then exploding like a raging storm into battle and then back to serene calm when it all ends.
But it all might come to an end as rapidly as the cheetah moves. Their numbers are headed into a tailspin. Once they roamed around the plains of Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Because of their tendency not to stick to a territory, they frequently enter the human territory and invariably come into contact with them. There were around 7,100 of them in the wild three years ago. And the numbers have dwindled alarmingly since then.
The reasons are numerous-loss of prey and habitat, their habit of straying into human territory and hunting livestock, though the damage they cause is negligent. And this is the reason that there is a pressing need to re-categorize this magnificent animal to the endangered category form its present perch of vulnerable.
More than 50% of the cheetahs are concentrated in and around six countries of Africa. And they are as good as gone in Asia. A few dozen remain in isolated pockets or held captive. As these animals go far beyond their comfort zone in search of prey, they fall prey to settlers protecting their farmlands. The situation in Zimbabwe is really terrible with the numbers dwindling to just 170 animals from 1200 that roamed its plane a week.
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The primary reason for the cheetahs is that they refuse to stick to their territory. This, coupled with their elusive nature has made it difficult to study them. Another danger that they are facing is the illegal trade in cheetah cubs all across the world. A cub can fetch as much as $10,000 on the illegal markets of the world. The Cheetah Conservation Fund mentions that of the 1200 cubs smuggled out of Africa in the last decade, 85% died before they reached their destination.
The report headed by Dr Sarah Durant mentions how there has to be a drastic change in the way the cheetahs are managed in the wild. Instead of national borders to determine their territory, they should be allowed to stay in the landscape that best suits them.
All the nations involved should get into the act. Durant’s report is warning enough for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to recategorize cheetahs as endangered in the Red List. The main step would be to look beyond borders for the cheetah does not recognize the same. And that might just save them.