Just 7,100 cheetahs remain across the globe as the species continues to face a range of threats largely caused by humans, according to new research.
Researchers behind the study from the Zoological Society of London, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society called on scientists to classify the animal as endangered — a distinction that will promote additional funds for protecting the species.
The study, published in the journal PNAS, shows that cheetahs no longer live in 91% of their historic range as humans continue to encroach on the animals’ land and hunt the prey that the cats need to survive. And because cheetahs — the planet’s fastest land mammal — tend to roam large areas, much of the land where they reside remains unprotected.
Researchers say that a more comprehensive approach will be necessary to save the species that includes engagement from local and national officials. “We’ve just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction,” says Kim Young-Overton, director of Panthera’s cheetah program, in a press release. “Securing protected areas alone is not enough. We must think bigger.”