A major conservation group is urging environmental leaders to list cheetahs as an endangered species, warning that populations of the big cats have crashed dramatically across the African continent in just a few decades.

Only 7,100 cheetahs, the world’s fastest land animal, are left in the wild, according to a new report released Monday by the predator conservation group Panthera, the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Those few remaining populations have been forced to live in just 9 percent of the species’ historic range in pockets of Africa and a small region in Iran as protected areas dwindle in the face of human expansion.

Environmentalists say the cats have, in many ways, slipped through the cracks of conservation in the face of other great animal crises, like those of African elephants, rhinos and lions.

“They tend to be less persecuted than species like lions, and in some sense that might’ve given us some sense of complacency,” said Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer for Panthera.

Cheetahs are currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, which monitors animal population numbers. But Panthera has called for the cats to be up-listed to an “endangered” designation as soon as possible, pointing to recent losses in areas that were home to most of the animals. .. see more

source: huffingtonpost