Laurie Marker: The cheetah is on the brink of extinction

speciesspecies on the way toextinctionextinction or “endangered species” are expressions associated with many animals but cheetahcheetah does not necessarily come to mind. And yet at the moment there are a little more than 12 thousand of them in the world. An emergency that Laurie Marker tells us about.

Lori Marker:

Image of a cheetah running across African savannah and inspires speedspeed and agility are so familiar to us from television wildlife documentaries that it seems hard to believe that this magnificent animal literally runs to survive. The fastest land animal is also the most threatened African feline, with 100,000 cheetahs living in Asia and Africa in 1900. A century later, fewer than 12,000 remained in 26 African countries and about a hundred in Iran, the last of the Asian population. Today, there are viable populations in less than half of the countries where cheetahs still exist. All populations are listed in Appendix I of CITES as endangered species international trade in them is prohibited, and they are all listed on the Red ListIUCNIUCN as a “vulnerable” or “endangered” species.

The genetic structure The cheetah has received considerable attention in recent years. In the early 1980s, I started working with scientists inNational USA CancerCancer Institute and on Smithsonian Institution. A comparative analysis of cheetah ejaculate showed that spermsperm was one-tenth similar to that observed in domestic cats and had a particularly high level (71%)anomaliesanomalies. These congenital defects is the result of crossing genetically close relatives.

A vulnerable species with a poor genetic heritage

This alerted us to the fact that there is something very unusual about cheetahs as a species. L’molecular genetic analysis Blood samples showed that the cheetah was unique among felines and others mammalsmammals, which have an extreme monomorphism. It was then hypothesized that around 10,000 years ago the cheetah population experienced a significant decline, followed by a long period inbreedinginbreeding and several bottlenecksbottlenecks genetics (” genetic bottleneck ยป) regional because, the reduction of diversityallelesalleles in his heritage hereditaryhereditary. The current cheetah population is very similar to the cheetah population laboratory mouselaboratory mouse twenty generations inbreeding. This monotony geneticgenetic caused problems with reproduction, child mortality (up to 30% in captivity) and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Modern cheetah populations are the descendants of the animals left behindPleistocene era about 10,000 years ago. Cheetahs somehow survived this mass extinction and the population grew through inbreeding due to their limited geographic distribution in Africa and parts of Asia.

Studies conducted on two subspeciessubspecies of cheetahs largely show that the East African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus raineyi) and the South African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) are 10-100 times less genetically separated than human racial groups. This conclusion calls into question the reliability classification of subspecies existing and may be important for the management of cheetah populations such ashybridizationhybridization that can help improve the health of these different populations. The vulnerability of this species, due to its abnormally low genetic variability, has alarmed the scientific community concerned with the conservation of other small populations that are also vulnerable, and has changed the way biologists and managers view endangered species conservation. While the future of the cheetah seems bleak, the cheetah’s story is that of a survivor: it has recovered from several population declines and managed to replenish its population each time.

The problems of cheetah survival are now more alarming than ever, especially because global environmental problems increase The rapid decline in cheetah numbers over the past century is attributed to habitat loss and fragmentation, decline in natural prey, and conflict with ranchers. With the growth of the population, the amount of land intended for livestock breeding increases. Livestock fills the space where cheetahs roam, and natural prey becomes scarce. This has resulted in a smaller and less diverse gene pool, and this genetic homogeneity can make species more susceptible to environmental and ecological change. With proper conservation and management strategies in place, where habitats are protected and cheetah populations are acceptable, the species may survive into the future.

The survival of cheetahs depends on people

Today, the survival of the cheetah is in the hands of man. A great threat to the cheetah’s survival is also associated with its difficulties in adapting to protected areas and reserves, unlike other predators. Despite the fact that nature reserves have contributed to their protection, less than 10% of the remaining cheetahs are found in them. Part of the reason is competition with larger predators such as lionslions and hyenas morphologymorphology completely different. The cheetah, compared to the other 37 species of cats, has developed many morphological and physiological adaptations to become the fastest terrestrial four-legged mammal at short distances (300-400 meters), developing a speed of 110 km/h. Their light and flexible constitution, designed for racing, is a disadvantage compared to other large predators. The strain of the chase can wear them down, requiring up to 20 minutes of rest after a kill. This recovery phase increases the risk of lions stealing their prey, leopards and hyenas they cannot fight. Cheetah cubs are also often vulnerable to predators during their mother’s absence.

In the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, 90% of young animals do not reach the age of three months. Because of this competition, most cheetahs are outside protected areas and come into conflict with humans and their livestock. In South Africa, cheetahs are regularly killed in agricultural areas due to actual or suspected predation. Conflict between livestock and carnivorouscarnivorous was reinforced by changes in pastoral activity in recent decades. Domestic livestock, no longer corralled or guarded, became vulnerable to predators. In addition, pastoralists have lost the tradition of coexistence with large predators, and modern legislation on the protection of carnivorous animals has not formed a positive attitude towards cooperation on the part of herding communities. Increasing availability of firearms firefire is a threat in many African countries, especially because the cheetah skin has real value, both culturally and commercially. The captivity is also a concern. Captive populations have a frequencyfrequency high rate of unusual diseases rare for other species. Although the specific causes of these diseases are unknown, stress is an important underlying factor, and predispositionpredisposition genetic predisposition and malnutrition are possible confounding factors.

As wild cheetah populations become more fragmented, their management will become increasingly necessary in the future to maintain genetic diversity and prevent further population declines due to habitat loss, population fluctuations and conflict with wildlife. Our research in Namibia has provided the basis for developing effective conservation strategies for the long-term survival of wild cheetahs.

In 1990, I created the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF: Cheetah Conservation Fund) and founded it in Namibia in 1991, in the very heart of the country of cheetahs, to stop the decline of the latter and actively cooperate with farmers. CCF’s mission, born of a dream, today is to be an internationally recognized center in casecase research and education about cheetahs and their ecosystemsecosystemsworking with all stakeholders to be most effective in the conservation and management of cheetahs worldwide.

Motto: “We can live together”

The number of cheetahs present at the CCF varies from week to week, depending on the catches made by farmers, who then ask the CCF to accept the predators and leave them there, finding a new place for their reintroduction (over 450 cheetahs have been successfully released in the last 15 years) . Some cheetahs, however, are forced to remain in captivity forever because they were taken too early: the little orphans did not have time to learn from their mothers how to hunt and live in the wild.
Several scientific research programs are currently underway that conduct daily research related to the well-being of cheetahs. Every cheetah brought to CCF undergoes a full medical examination. Body measurements and tissue samples are taken to create a wild population database. Thus, we worked on more than 800 cheetahs. AND bank of genomic resources (GRB for Genome bank resource) stores and studies the sperm of more than 160 cheetahs.

“We can live together” is the motto of the CCF. Most of our work was to convince farmers that they could live with cheetahs on their land. Using scientifically validated research programs, we have achieved significant success. Today, most farmers allow the reintroduction of cheetahs to the farms where they were captured, provided they do not result in loss of livestock. Farmers are becoming more tolerant of cheetahs on their land.

The saving programs Cheetahs developed by CCF are used in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and even Algeria and Iran. These programs, with the cooperation and assistance of members of the Namibian community, reflect the CCF motto.

If wild populations continue to decline and efforts to conserve the species’ habitat in Africa fail, cheetahs could become extinct within the next two decades. The survival of the cheetah depends on the management of cultivated lands and the ecological system as a whole, both in terms of the management of prey populations and the stability of the habitat. The foundation works with local farming communities to provide the necessary habitat for the species while taking into account the needs of farmers.

Cheetahs deserve a place on this earth. Their maximum speed makes them unique animals. People have revered the cheetah for nearly 5,000 years, and for good reason. Allowing it to decay now will not only leave a huge hole in nature, but also in our psyche, the human mind, which naturally feels and knows how unique this creature is.

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