The fastest animal in the world is racing towards extinction, with less than 10,000 species left in the wild. Of that an estimated 6,200 or so individuals are left in Southern Africa, 2,500 in East Africa and about 450 across North, West and Central Africa.
Another year has past since last years’ International Cheetah Day and much has happened during that time, some good and some bad.
Before we celebrate a species fighting for its survival in the wild, lets take a look at the plight of this iconic animal. According to Panthera cheetah populations are faring better, however they are still considered Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They recently upheld their Appendix 1 protection at the 2016 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which will hopefully see a commitment to ending the trade in live cheetahs as exotic pets.
In a landmark set of decisions and recommendations at the CITES CoP17, countries approved a variety of actions including strengthening enforcement concerning the illegal trade in cheetahs; improving regional cooperation in law enforcement; and addressing the use of social media platforms for selling cheetah.
The Appendix 1 listing is important as it recognises that trade contributes to a species’ decline in the wild and indeed, cheetahs are traded for pets, mainly in East Africa, and are poached throughout their range for their pelts or body parts.
5 interesting facts about cheetahs
- The cheetah is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
- They are also one of the most endangered species on the planet. One hundred years ago there were 100,000 of them, today the cheetah is said to have lost over 86% of their range and there are fewer than 10,000 individuals in the wild.
- Cheetahs are said to be “kind of social”: females generally live alone unless they have dependent cubs, while males often form coalitions for life.
- The cheetah’s system of solitary females and social males is unique among cats as well as other species of mammals. In no other felid, except the lion, do the males form a lasting bond, probably because reduced competition for females favours sociality in males.
- There are multiple reasons for group living in an asocial species such as the cheetah and different age-sex classes of cheetahs group for different reasons:
- Grouping makes males more competitive when fighting for areas of high female density.
- Grouping allows adolescents to reduce harassment from predators.
- Grouping in families furthers the mother’s reproductive success while cubs are protected from predators and provided with food.
International Cheetah Day aims to educate young learners about the species, its plight, and inspire people of all ages to get involved with conservation efforts.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund is once again encouraging zoos and schools around the world to help spark young people’s interest in conservation by recognising International Cheetah Day with cheetah-themed activities and classroom lessons. Cheetah teaching and outreach materials, including a downloadable activities packet designed for elementary schoolchildren and a PowerPoint presentation with notes, can be accessed through The Cheetah Conservation Fund’s new website for International Cheetah Day.
Cheetah photos, videos and social media links are also available online, as well suggestions for ways to celebrate.
You can also support a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet beneficiary that contributes to the conservation of this beautiful felid via your MySchool card. MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is one of South Africa’s biggest fundraising programmes and allows you to make a difference, just by shopping. Every time you use your card at any of our partner stores they’ll give back a percentage of your purchase value, on your behalf, to the school or charity you choose at absolutely no cost to you! For more information on the My Planet beneficiaries that are helping to make a difference visit our website.