Biodiversity and Evolution

Why are cheetahs endangered?
Answered by Planet Green
  • Planet Green

    Planet Green

  1. Several reasons have likely caused the cheetah to be an endangered species. For one, the wild cats have problems surviving because their natural African habitat is shrinking. There's simply not the food supply there had been for them in bygone years. Unfortunately, it  doesn't get any easier for the speedy creatures on game reserves either, where their middling size prevents them from thriving. Animal parks and reserves, in Africa and other places, protect wildlife from hunters and other threats, but cheetahs usually fare poorly there. It's not that there's a lack of food on the reserves: Herd animals such as wildebeest, zebras and antelope thrive there. The trouble for cheetahs is that powerful predators like lions, leopards and hyenas also thrive there, feeding on the herd animals. In such crowded, confined areas, cheetahs and other mid-sized predators like wild dogs can't compete against the larger animals for food, says Timothy M. Caro, a researcher from the University of California, Davis who has observed wild cheetahs in Tanzania's Serengeti Plain since 1980.

    Also contributing to the big cat's troubles, outside the safety of preserves, is the fact that they have to dodge hunters and others such as ranchers who kill the animals to protect their livestock.

    Some think genetics may also play a role in the speedy cat's troubles. Its small population of survivors have become inbred to the point where there is very little variation in the species. The feeling is that survivors are more prone to disease and suffer reduced fertility rates Australian Broadcasting Corp.

    All hope may not be lost though. Captive breeding programs have experienced increased success, thanks to changes in how the cheetahs' care is managed. Research suggests that the outlook is less dire, at least for cheetahs in captivity.  The ability of Punchow, a male cheetah at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and other captive cheetahs to reproduce in the 1990s has underscored that hope.

    More answers from Planet Green »

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