Cheetahs sprinting out

The fastest land animal in the world is threatened with extinction

Endangered Sprinter: Even the cheetah can not run away from loss of prey and habitat. © ZSL
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Researchers sound the alarm: The fastest sprinter in the animal kingdom is in acute danger of extinction. The cheetah stocks have collapsed in the last few years, only 7, 100 animals remain worldwide. Of the Asian cheetahs even only 50 copies exist. The cause of the alarming losses is above all the enormous space requirement of the fast hunter who brings the cheetahs out of the protected areas.

Cheetahs are considered the fastest land animals on earth. Thanks to their outstanding running technique, the petite big cats briefly reach a speed of over 100 kilometers per hour. The fast hunters were still widespread in Africa and Asia at the end of the 19th century. Today, however, their range has shrunk to just a few small remnants - and with them the stocks of cheetahs.

Dramatic losses

A new "census" among the cheetahs of Asia and Africa has now been carried out by Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and her colleagues. "Because of the shy nature of this elusive cat, it's very hard to get reliable data about this species, " says Durant. "This quickly overlooks the critical position of the cheetahs."

The depressing result: the stocks of cheetahs have shrunk dramatically. Worldwide, there are only about 7, 100 specimens of the sprinter of the savanna. The big cat has disappeared from 91 percent of its former habitat. The genetically different from the African cheetah Asian cheetahs are particularly threatened: Of them live only 50 animals in a small area in Iran, as the researchers found.

The cheetah has already disappeared from 91 percent of its original habitat © ZSL

Fatal space requirement

The main reason for the disappearance of the cheetahs is their enormous space requirement. The Sprinters are among the big cats with the largest territories anywhere, as Durant and her colleagues explain. However, about two-thirds of the cheetah habitats are outside of protected areas. As a result, the cats fall victim to J gern and also suffer from prey scarcity. display

In Zimbabwe, for example, the cheetah population shrank from 1, 200 animals to just 170 cheetahs in just 16 years. that corresponds to a loss of 85 percent of the stock, as the researchers report. "Our results show that the sheer size of the cheetah, combined with the complex number of threats posed by these wild animals, is bringing these big cats closer to extinction than anyone has ever imagined, " he says Durant.

"We have to rethink!"

If nothing is done, this magnificent savanna savannah may soon have completely disappeared from Africa and Asia, the scientists warn. They call for more interdisciplinary measures to preserve the cheetah habitats and more funds for conservation efforts. In addition, the cheetah now on the Red List of "endangered" to be "threatened with extinction".

"The message of this study is that it is not enough just to protect the protected areas, " says Kim Young-Overton of the conservation organization Panthera. "We need to think bigger and protect the entire mosaic of protected areas and unspoilt landscapes that these cats inhabit. Only in this way can we prevent us from losing the cheetahs forever. "(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1611122114)

(Panthera, 02.01.2017 - NPO)