The South African cheetah is the most numerous and the nominate cheetah subspecies native to Southern Africa. These animals live mainly in the lowland areas and deserts of the Kalahari, the savannahs of Okavango Delta and the grasslands of the Gauteng region in South Africa.
There are only 7,100 highly endangered cheetah known to remain worldwide, with a stronghold in Southern Africa. The population trend is decreasing, mostly due to habitat loss, conflict with farmers and ranchers, competition with other large predators such as lions and the smuggling of cheetah cubs into the illegal exotic pet trade.
Facts about the Conservation Status of Cheetahs in South-Africa:
- The Cheetah disappeared from 76% of the species’ historic range in Africa.
- South Africa is currently home to the third largest wild Cheetah population worldwide, but the species has been eradicated from 91% of their historical range, according to the EWT.
- The status of Cheetah in South Africa is currently listed as Vulnerable. However, recent research indicates that it might be necessary to move Cheetah to the Endangered category of the IUCN if threats to the species could not be addressed sufficiently.
- It is estimated that South Africa has between 600 and a 1000 individuals.
- Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the future of Cheetah in South Africa.
- Other threats include amongst others, human-wildlife conflict; climate change; trafficking in skins and bones; and trafficking for the illegal pet trade.
- Outside of large protected areas such as Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi National Park, cheetahs are heavily prosecuted.
- The erection of impermeable game fences for game breeding facilities are further fragmenting remaining habitat of free ranging cheetahs that occur naturally along the northern border of South Africa.
To address some of the conflict between landowners and cheetahs, animals have been introduced to smaller reserves such as Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Tshwane. Although these reserves are too small to host viable populations of cheetahs they are managed as part of a meta population initiative run by the EWT to ensure long-term viability of the species in small fenced reserves.
- At CITES 2016, the following three aspects related to Cheetah received attention: development of a Cheetah Resource Kit to support enforcement personnel in Cheetah identification and procedures in case of confiscations; the establishment of a Cheetah Forum for stakeholders; and engaging social media for support in stopping the practice of selling cheetahs online and raising awareness.
At the moment, the fastest land mammal on Earth is running the ultimate race – the race for survival.