It may surprise you that there are less than 10,000 Cheetahs left in the wilds today!
There were once over 100,000 cheetahs in the wild.
In fact, just a hundred years ago before the drastic fall in cheetahs’ population, these unique and elegant predators could be found throughout the whole African continent and into Asia as far as Eastern India. However, since 1990, over-hunting and rapid habitat loss drove the species into straits; there are less than 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild today.
And their number is still dropping.
While it may seem justified that cheetahs were paying the price for our hasty development in the era of conservation ignorance a hundred years ago, it appears mystifying to many that their number is still decreasing when there seem to be plenty of conservation efforts and breeding programs in Africa.
However, just like it is hard to judge a book by its cover, the word “conservation” is sometimes simply used as a blind to cover up the greed from businessmen or governments who care only to make more money from the endangered animal. Despite the recent growth in the number of cheetahs in captivity, few of them are actually released back to the wild.
There are several places captivity-bred cheetahs could end up:
Although lions are the most common big cats in canned hunting, cheetahs are also the victims.
The source of these big cats is often the so-called “cuddle farm”, where well-meaning but uninformed tourists pay to cuddle and bottle-feed the adorable cubs. While the tourists are often told that they are taking care of orphaned cubs that would one day be released, they were really just raising the cubs to be killed for trophies.
[We were assured that canned hunting of Cheetah is illegal in South Africa although that of Lion and Leopard is not!]
Kept in Captivity
While there are about 90 cheetahs being exported to zoos per year, many more captivity-bred cheetahs are kept in captivity for their entire life.
With few release sites available, many breeders claim that they simply keep cheetah for educational purpose or sustain the gene pool. However, with little regulation in place, they could easily neglect the welfare of cheetahs and exploit them.
[We have since learned that cheetah over all do not do well in captivity, that a high percentage of captive born cubs don’t survive, and that many surviving cubs may well simply replenish the captive population!]
Adding the negligible cheetah release are problems like counter-productive policies and illegal trade:
Many people may not be aware of that cheetah hunting is still legal in parts of Africa. In Namibia, the largest cheetah trophy exporter in Africa, the legal CITES quota actually allows 150 cheetahs to be hunted per year. With only 3000 cheetahs in Namibia and only 600-800 of them grown males that could be legally hunt, this is nothing short of a permit to hunt cheetahs into extinction in Namibia.
Perhaps not surprisingly, pet cheetahs are very popular and are a booming industry in Middle the East. It is estimated that 118 cheetahs were involved in the illegal trade from 2012 to 2013 alone. The death toll for these cheetah cubs is staggering: 50-70% of them die in transit. Even though it’s supposed these cubs were snatched from the wild, one may wonder if the relatively large number of captivated-bred cheetahs could also supply this industry.
Perhaps the most concerning fact of all is that many African governments seem to have little concern for its wild animals. In South Africa alone, hunters bring in 100 million dollars per year. With the kind of profit to be made, many African governments seem to be trying to cater to the hunters’ needs.
With the nightmarish combination of poaching, illegal trade and flawed laws, it seems that cheetahs in Africa have a very hard fight for survival.
Read more in the eReport “Cheetah Conservation: What’s Really Happening?“
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sylvia Lin