New study finds cheetah populations are 'crashing globally'

Experts are calling for the status of the cat to be changed from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered'

New study finds cheetah populations are 'crashing globally'

Image: Zoological Society of London

Experts have warned cheetahs are much more at risk of extinction than previously thought.

It's estimated there are just 7,100 left in the wild - across just 9% of the territory they used to live in.

Populations in Asia have been most affected by population decline, with fewer than 50 of the animals estimated to be left in Iran.

The authors of the new study have suggested that the status of cheetahs - the fasted land mammal - should be changed from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Dr Sarah Durant, Zoological Society of London and lead author of the report, 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.

"Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought.”

She also explained that funds and resources are needed to implement plans of action agreed with various governments and the conservation community.

"The recent decisions made at the CITES CoP17 meeting in Johannesburg represent a significant breakthrough particularly in terms of stemming the illegal flow of live cats trafficked out of the Horn of Africa region," she said.

"However, concerted action is needed to reverse ongoing declines in the face of accelerating land use changes across the continent.”