Washington, Dec 27 The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah, is sprinting towards the edge of extinction, a new study warned, calling for urgent conservation actions to save these big cats.
The study published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, estimated that the cheetah's population has declined to just 7,100 globally, Xinhua news agency reports.
As a result, the researchers urged that the cheetah should be up-listed from "Vulnerable" to "Endangered" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London and lead author of the study said this study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date.
"Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked," Durant said in a statement. According to the researchers, even within guarded parks and reserves, cheetahs still face threats of human-wildlife conflict, prey loss due to excessive hunting by people, habitat loss and the illegal trafficking of cheetah parts and trade as exotic pets.
To make matters worse, as one of the world's most wide-ranging carnivores, 77 per cent of the cheetah's habitat falls outside of protected areas, which makes the animal especially vulnerable to human pressures. "The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough," said Kim Young-Overton, cheetah program director of the wild cat conservation group Panthera.