Cheetahs are known to be the fastest land animal. They are capable of sprinting up to 120 kilometers per hour and accelerating to 97 kilometers per hour in as little as three seconds. Essentially making them faster than most sports cars. But did you know, that these marvelous creatures almost became Extinct?
Cheetahs were once on the verge of extinction, and their genetic diversity has dwindled to the point where their immune system cannot recognize a “non-self.” Skin grafts exchanged between unrelated cheetahs are treated as clones or identical twins.
Cheetahs Racing Against Extinction
Cheetahs are under threat of extinction due to climate change, human hunting, and habitat destruction, reducing the size of their population quickly. Cheetahs’ genes also pose a threat to their survival.
Cheetahs have a low rate of reproductive success, which means that they cannot always reproduce as a species. The population cannot grow or adapt to environmental changes with fewer offspring.
They are currently on the verge of extinction, even though cheetahs have previously faced and overcome the threat of death. According to genetic analysis of wild cheetahs, they may have survived two historical bottlenecks, which are events that drastically reduce the size of a population.
When this happens, the few survivors inbreed or mate with relatives. Inbreeding reduces the size of the gene pool, which can lead to issues such as decreased genetic variability and the persistence of potentially harmful mutations, making it more difficult for the remaining population to adapt to environmental changes. Any modifications in a tiny population are much more likely to be passed on to offspring and propagate through successive generations.
When this happens, the few survivors inbreed or mate with relatives. Inbreeding reduces the size of the gene pool, which can lead to issues such as decreased genetic variability and the persistence of potentially harmful mutations, making it more difficult for the remaining population to adapt to environmental changes. (Source: Oxford Academic – Journal of Heredity)
Cheetahs and the Wild-life Conflict
Unlike other large cats and pack predators, Cheetahs do poorly in wildlife reserves. Other larger predators, such as the lion, leopard, and hyena, are commonly found in these areas. Predators like these compete for prey with cheetahs and will even kill cheetahs if given a chance. In such regions, cheetah cub mortality can reach 90%. As a result, most of the cheetahs in Africa live outside of protected areas on private farmlands, where they frequently come into conflict with humans.
A farmer’s livelihood is jeopardized when a predator threatens his livestock. Farmers act quickly to protect their resources, trapping or shooting cheetahs regularly. Cheetahs are more frequently seen than nocturnal predators because they hunt more during the day, contributing to cheetah persecution. (Source: Oxford Academic – Journal of Heredity)
Cheetahs versus Ilegal Wildlife Trade
There are strong cultural associations with keeping cheetahs as companions in many parts of the world. The practice has a long history and can be found in ancient art. Cheetahs are still considered status symbols in modern times. Even though cheetah and exotic pet ownership are illegal in many countries, there is still a high demand for cheetahs as pets. Only one in every six cubs captured illegally from the wild survives the journey to a potential buyer. (Source: Oxford Academic – Journal of Heredity)