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Acinonyx jubatus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1775)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Cheetah, Hunting Leopard
French Guépard
Spanish Chita, Guepardo
Taxonomic Notes: Formerly included in a monophyletic group, the subfamily Acinonychinae (e.g., Wozencraft 1993), molecular evidence now clusters the cheetah with the Puma Puma concolor and Jaguarundi P. yagouaroundi in the tribe Acinonychini (Eizirik et al. submitted), diverging some 6.9 million years ago (Johnson et al. 2006, O'Brien and Johnson 2007). A close relationship between these three species is in agreement with earlier studies (Johnson and O’Brien 1997, Bininda-Emonds et al. 1999, Mattern and MacLennan 2000).

Krausman and Morales (2005) list five cheetah subspecies:

A. j. hecki Hilzheimer, 1913: Northwest Africa
A. j. fearsoni (Smith, 1834): East Africa
A. j. jubatus (Schreber, 1775): Southern Africa
A. j. soemmerringi (Fitzinger, 1855): Northeast Africa
A. j. venaticus (Griffith, 1821): North Africa to central India

Only A. j. jubatus and A. j. raineyii have been compared using genetic analysis, and found to be extremely similar, but the subspecies distinction was still retained (O’Brien et al. 1987).

The subspecies A. j. venaticus, commonly called the Asiatic cheetah, is considered by Nowell and Jackson (1996) to survive only in Iran. They place the eastern limit of its range in Arabia. However, the review by Krausman and Morales (2005) included cheetahs from the northern Sahara in venaticus. The type locality of A. j. venaticus (=Felis venatica [Griffith, 1821]) is unknown (Krausman and Morales 2005). At a November 2006 meeting of the North African Region Cheetah Action Group (NARCAG), Belchabir (2007a) recommended genetic studies to clarify whether the cheetahs of Algeria (which probably has the largest Saharan cheetah population) should be classified as A. j. hecki or A. j. venaticus. Presently A. j. venaticus is considered restricted to Asia.

The English name is derived from the Hindi Chita, meaning "spotted one". The generic name Acinonyx is a reference to its non-retractile claws (Caro 1994).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2acd; C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Durant, S., Marker, L., Purchase, N., Belbachir, F., Hunter, L., Packer, C., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Sogbohossou, E. & Bauer, H.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
The known cheetah population is approximately 7,500 adult animals (see section Population for details). Additional areas where cheetah status is poorly known are unlikely to raise the total to over 10,000. Given Myers (1975) estimate of 15,000 cheetahs in Africa in the 1970s, a decline of at least 30% is suspected over the past 18 years (3 generations). The decline is primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as killing and capture of cheetahs as livestock depredators, primarily, as well as for trade (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).

Subspecies in Iran (A. j. venaticus) and northwest Africa (A. j. heckii) are listed as Critically Endangered.
History:
2002 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Cheetahs have disappeared from huge areas of their historic range. They still occur widely, but sparsely, in Africa, but Ray et al. (2005) estimate that the cheetahs have disappeared from 76% of their historic range on the continent.

In Asia, the cheetah has lost almost all its vast historic range, which within the last century extended from the shores of the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula, north to the northern shores of the Caspian and Aral Seas, and west through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan into central India (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Habibi 2004; Mallon 2007). Part of the reason for their disappearance in Asia is live captures of cheetahs, which were trained to hunt for the aristocracy (Divyabhanusingh, 1995). The main cause, however, was likely depletion of the wild prey base, especially gazelles, as well as direct killing of cheetahs and development of their habitat (Mallon, 2007). The Asiatic cheetah (A. j. venaticus) is now known to survive only in Iran, where it is Critically Endangered. Persistence in Pakistan is unlikely (Husain 2001). While Habibi (2004) considers it extinct in Afghanistan, a cheetah skin of unknown origin was found in a marketplace in western Afghanistan in 2007 (L. Hunter pers. comm.).

Southern and Eastern Africa are the species strongholds, although there has been significant range loss in parts of these regions. Cheetahs are known to occur only in 6% of their historical range in Eastern Africa (310,586 km²), and possibly occur in another 892,658 km² (Anon. 2007). Current distribution in several countries remains largely unknown (Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia). Cheetahs are known to be extirpated from large areas in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi (Anon. 2007, 2008). In some parts of southern Africa they occur extensively outside protected areas on commercial ranch land where other large predators (lions and hyenas) have been extirpated (Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe) (Purchase et al. 2007).

Cheetahs have declined most drastically in northern and western Africa (Ray et al. 2005). The subspecies (A. j. heckii) is listed as Critically Endangered; see subspecies account for detailed information on northwest Africa.

Cheetah persistence in the eastern Sahara is unlikely.

Cheetahs are possibly extinct in Libya. Specimens were previously collected near the Egyptian border (northeastern part of the country), in Dahra, Sirtica (north-central), Bir Ghazal and Hamada-el-Homra (northwestern). Other records include Fezzan, Khor-el-Gifa, Gikherra (eastern), El Ftaia (near coastal area) and Mizda (Hufnagl 1972). Myers (1975) mentioned that cheetahs were noted in Niger/Libyan borders as well as Niger/Algerian borders. An inquiry with local Tuaregs suggested that the species might not longer be present in Akoukas Mountains (J.-L. Bernezat pers. comm. 2007).

In Tunisia, cheetahs were formerly reported to roam in sandy expanses south of Chott-el-Djerid, the desert areas south of Foum Tatahouine and the Grand Erg Occidental and its surroundings (Schomber and Kock 1960). There are no recent records on the species in the country which make it presumably extinct. The El-Borma region, near the Algerian boundaries, was probably among the areas where cheetahs have last been seen in 1974 and documented (Louis 1979).

As far as Egypt is concerned, data collated during the last few decades suggest that cheetahs are extremely rare, if not extinct, in the country. Osborn and Helmy (1980) provided original and literature-based records from the Matrouh Governorate and Sinai. According to Saleh et al. (2001), cheetahs became extinct from most of the Mediterranean coastal region and easily accessible inland habitats of El-Maghra and Siwa oases one decade after being widely distributed in the northern Egyptian Western Desert until the 1970s. The main reasons explaining cheetah extirpation have been attributed to extensive and uncontrolled hunting and the development of coastal lands (Saleh et al. 2001). If not completely vanished, the species is believed to be confined, with a very low density, to the Western Desert and around the Qattara Depression (Saleh et al., 2001; Hoath, 2003). Recent records from North Sinai, including one female and three cubs killed by Bedouin hunters in 1993, as well as one female seen with two cubs in November 1994, have not been verified (Hoath 2003).

In the eastern Sahel and central Africa, there is little current information:

Current cheetah distribution in most of its historic range in Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia are unknown (Anon. 1997). In Chad, although cheetahs were still present and seen occasionally in Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim in the 1970s (J. Newby pers. comm. 2008). A recent wildlife survey in western and central Chad, including Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve, conducted by the Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group in 2001, failed to detect any cheetah presence in the region (Monfort et al. 2003). In the Central Saharan (northern) part of the country, cheetahs still occur, in very low density, in and around the Ennedi Massif (J. Newby pers. comm. 2008 based on Rava’s pers. comm.). There is no information on previously reported populations in the Tibesti Mountains (Central Sahara). In southeastern Chad, cheetahs may still survive to date in Zakouma National Park (population still present in the protected area as of 2006 [N. Vanherle pers. comm. 2008]).

In central Africa, current cheetah distribution in the savanna regions of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, and Democratic Republic of Congo is unknown (Marker 2002). It is considered extinct in Rwanda and Burundi, and possibly extinct in Nigeria. Rosevear (1974) underlined the paucity of positive records for Nigeria and mentioned Lake Chad, Yan Tumaki (Katsina Division) and possibly Bauchi Plateau as localities for three specimens kept in the British Museum. Happold (1987) raised the possibility of their occurrence near Cameroonian boundaries, and also in the Yankari Game Reserve (Happold 1987). Recent reports from protected area managers and wildlife traders indicate that a threatened small cheetah population may still range in restricted areas in north-centre and northeastern parts of the country (R. Ikemeh pers. comm. 2008).
Countries:
Native:
Algeria; Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Ethiopia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Possibly extinct:
Afghanistan; Cameroon; Djibouti; Egypt; Libya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Nigeria; Pakistan; Senegal; Western Sahara
Regionally extinct:
Burundi; Côte d'Ivoire; Eritrea; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Sierra Leone; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Yemen
Reintroduced:
Swaziland
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Southern Africa is the cheetah’s regional stronghold, with a "roughly" estimated population of at least 4,500 adults (Purchase et al. 2007). This regional estimate breaks down as follows: Angola – present but unknown; Botswana – 1,800; Malawi - <25 (and probably extirpated: Purchase and Purchase 2007); Mozambique: <50; Namibia – 2,000; South Africa – 550; Zambia – 100; Zimbabwe – 400. A large proportion of the estimated population lives outside protected areas, in lands ranched primarily for livestock but also for wild game, and where lions and hyenas have been extirpated.

The number of known resident cheetahs in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) is estimated at 2,572 adults and independent adolescents. Most population estimates were derived from applying a density estimate of one adult per 100 km² to mapped resident range areas during a conservation strategy workshop, although a few are based on research. Only four of the 15 known populations were estimated to number >200 animals; the largest population (Serengeti/Maro/Tsavo in Kenya and Tanzania) is estimated at 710. It would be much smaller if unprotected lands were included. Overall, less than half of the estimated cheetah population inhabits protected areas. In addition, approximately half lives in habitat blocks which are trans-boundary, requiring international cooperation for conservation of the population. Cheetahs possibly occur over an area which is several times as large as the range of the known population (Anon. 2007).

These estimates can be compared with previous population estimates based on extensive field interviews and application of density estimates. There is rough accord for Kenya at 793 (Gros 1998) and Tanzania at 569-1,007 (Gros 2002). However, in Uganda, Gros and Rejmanek (1999) estimated 40-295 with a wider range in the Karamoja region, whereas now cheetahs have been extirpated and just 12 are estimated to persist in Kidepo National Park and surroundings (Anon. 2007).

In the remainder of Africa, there are few reliable population estimates. Cheetahs are considered extinct or possibly extinct in many countries (Marker 2002). In northwest Africa the population is probably fewer than 250 mature individuals and the subspecies A. j. heckii is listed as Critically Endangered.

In Asia cheetahs are now known to exist only in Iran, where the subspecies A. j. venaticus is estimated at 60-100 (Hunter et al. 2007) and listed as Critically Endangered.

The known cheetah population is not much greater than 7,000, and the total population is unlikely to exceed 10,000 mature individuals, thus meeting the criteria for Vulnerable. The current known population is half the 15,000 estimated by Myers (1975) from his continental status assessment. The effective population size (the estimated percentage of the population contributing to the gene pool through reproductive success) could be less than half of the total population (Kelly 2001).

While the current rate of population decline is of most concern, and the historical rate of decline has been severe (Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Ray et al. 2005), attention has also focused on the cheetah's having perhaps suffered even more extreme losses in the distant past. The cheetah species exhibits remarkably low levels of genetic diversity in comparison to other felids (O'Brien et al. 1986) (but not compared to carnivores in general: Merola 1994). This is consistent with inbreeding among a very few individuals surviving one or more catastrophic population bottlenecks in the past, with the first possibly occurring during the late Pleistocene extinctions, around 10,000 years ago, according to analysis of mitochondrial DNA (Menotti-Raymond and O'Brien 1995).

It is unclear what sort of agent could have caused such an extreme population decline in a wide-ranging species, and alternative explanations have been explored. Hedrick (1996) suggested the low levels of genetic variation could result from a very low effective population size (the estimated percentage of the population that is actually passing on its genes), and Kelly's (2001) calculations of effective population size in cheetahs of the Serengeti Plains were quite low (44% or less of the actual population). She found that only a few females contributed disproportionately to future generations by raising offspring which survived and reproduced (Kelly 2001). Genetic analysis by Gottelli et al. (2007) showed that male cheetahs, on the other hand, passed on their genes more successfully than expected. Female cheetahs mated with multiple males, many non-resident, with 43% of litters having mixed paternity. This indicates that rates of genetic loss should be lower than anticipated by Kelly (2001), and underscores the importance of cheetah mobility in their ecology and conservation.

While the causes of the cheetah's low levels of genetic variation are unclear, what is clear is that large populations are necessary to conserve it. Since cheetahs are a low density species, conservation areas need to be quite large, larger than most protected areas.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, and catch their prey, principally small- to mid-sized ungulates, especially gazelles, in high speed chases up to 103 km per hour (29 meters per second) (Sharp 1997), over distances of hundreds of metres. Other prey include ground-dwelling birds and small mammals, such as hares. Cheetahs, unlike other African predators, rarely scavenge and do not remain long with their kills, many of which are stolen by other carnivores. Cheetahs are primarily active during the day, unlike other predators, a strategy that may help to reduce competition (Caro 1994).

Cheetahs are primarily found in open grassy habitats, but also make use of dry forest, savanna woodland, semi-desert and scrub, being absent from tropical rainforest. There are reports of cheetah at altitudes of 4,000 m on Mt Kenya (Young and Evans 1993). In the central Sahara, cheetahs occur in high mountain habitat - the Saharan mountains are hyper-arid, but still receive slightly higher rainfall than the surrounding desert. They are thus better vegetated and support small permanent waterholes and antelope populations (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Cheetah habitat in Iran consists of desert, much of it with precipitation of fewer than 100 mm per year. The terrain ranges from plains and saltpans to eroded foothills, and rugged desert ranges that rise to an elevation of up to 2,000-3,000 m. The vegetation, if any, consists of a sparse cover of shrubs, most less than one meter tall, of the genera Salsola, Artemisia, Zygophyllum, Astragulus, Aphaxis, and others. Gazelles Gazella subgutturosa and G. bennetti were preferred prey, but they have now become scarce through over-hunting and replacement by livestock (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Opportunistic recovery of cheetah kills suggests that wild sheep Ovis orientalis, Persian ibex Capra aegagrus and Cape hares Lepus capensis are the key prey species today though none are considered optimal for cheetahs (Hunter et al. 2007).

Cheetahs have a social organization that is unique among the felids. Females are solitary or accompanied by dependent young, and males are either solitary or live in stable coalitions of two or three. Some coalitions consist of brothers, but unrelated males may also be members of the group. Unlike the coalitions formed by male lions, which remain attached to and mate with the females in a single pride, cheetah male coalitions mate with as many females as possible (Caro 1994), and females show no mate fidelity (Gottelli et al. 2007).

Female cheetahs in areas where prey is migratory (such as the Serengeti Plains) follow the herds, while male coalitions establish small territories (average 30 km²) and attempt to mate with females passing through (Durant et al. 1988; Caro 1994). However, in areas where prey is non-migratory, male and females have smaller, overlapping ranges that are similar in size (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). On Namibian farmlands, where prey is non-migratory, both cheetah sexes have very large home ranges (average 1,642 km²); however, intensively used core areas were just 14% of the total home range. The reasons for such large home ranges were unclear, and were apparently not the result of reduced prey availability (Marker 2002).

In comparison with other big cats, cheetahs occur at relatively low densities (10-30% of typical densities for lions, leopards, tigers and jaguars in prime habitat: Durant, 2007). On the Serengeti plains, cheetah densities range from 0.8-1.0 per 100 km², but seasonally cheetahs can congregate at densities up to 40 per 100 km² (Caro 1994). Caro (1994) attributes lower cheetah densities to interspecific competition (especially with larger species such as lions and hyenas that can kill cheetah cubs), but on Namibian farmlands, where lions and hyenas have been eradicated, cheetahs still occur at low densities (0.2 per 100 km²) (Marker 2002).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Cheetahs are hunted for sport and trophies, as well as handicrafts products. Live animals are also traded - the global captive cheetah population is not self-sustaining. Pest animals are also removed.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In Eastern Africa, habitat loss and fragmentation was identified as the primary threat during a conservation strategy workshop (Anon. 2007). Because cheetahs occur at low densities, conservation of viable populations requires large scale land management planning; most existing protected areas are not large enough to ensure the long term survival of cheetahs (Durant 2007).

A depleted wild ungulate prey base is of serious concern in northern Africa (Berzins and Belbachir 2006). Cheetahs which turn to livestock are killed as pests (Claro 2003; Hamdine et al. 2003; Wacher et al. 2005). Conflict with farmers and depletion of the wild prey base are also considered significant threats in parts of Eastern Africa (Anon. 2007).

In Iran, the Asiatic Cheetah A. j. venaticus is threatened indirectly by loss of prey base through human hunting activities. In addition, most protected areas are open to seasonal livestock grazing, which potentially places huge pressure on the resident ungulate populations through disturbance and potential competition (Hunter et al. 2007). Additionally, domestic dogs accompanying the herds present a likely threat to both cheetahs and their prey (H. Ziaie pers. comm. 2008) An emerging threat is the possibility of fragmentation into discontinuous subpopulations as a result of increasing developmental pressures (mining, oil, roads, railways); this is particularly the case in Kavir N.P., currently the north-western limit of the Asiatic Cheetah's range (L. Hunter and L. Marker pers. comm.).

Conflict with farmers and ranchers is the major threat to cheetahs in southern Africa (Purchase et al. 2007). Cheetah are often killed or persecuted because they are a perceived threat to livestock, despite the fact that they cause relatively little damage. In Namibia, very large numbers of cheetahs have been live-trapped and removed by ranchers seeking to protect their livestock (from government permit records, Nowell [1996] calculated that over 9,500 cheetahs were removed from 1978-1995). While removal rates have fallen, in part due to intensified conservation and education efforts, many ranchers still view cheetahs as a problem animal, despite research showing that cheetahs were only responsible for 3% of livestock losses to predators (Marke, 2002). Although cheetah in Iran have been killed because of predation on livestock, since 2003, there has been no direct evidence of killing cheetahs (Hunter et al. 2007), though it is likely most incidents go unreported.

Cheetahs are also vulnerable to being caught in snares set for other species (Ray et al. 2005; Anon. 2007).

Another threat to the cheetah is interspecific competition with other large predators, especially lions. On the open, short-grass plains of the Serengeti, juvenile mortality can be as high as 95%, largely due to predation by lions (Laurenson 1994). However, mortality rates are lower in more closed habitats (Caro in press).

CITES allows legal trade in live animals and hunting trophies under an Appendix I quota system (annual quotas: Namibia - 150; Zimbabwe - 50; Botswana - 5). This was accepted by CITES as a way to enhance the economic value of cheetahs on private lands and provide an economic incentive for their conservation (Nowell 1996). The global captive cheetah population is not self-sustaining; cheetahs breed poorly in captivity and in 2001 30% of the captive population was wild-caught (Marker 2002). While analysis of trade records in the CITES database shows that these countries have reported almost no live exports since the late 1990s, Purchase et al. (2007) are concerned that there is a substantial illegal cross-border trade in live animals. There is also concern about illegal trade in skins, as well as capture of live cubs for trade to the Middle East (Anon. 2007). There is an increasing trade in cubs from north-east Africa into the Middle East (Amir 2005), but there is currently little trade in cubs from the Sahel region, where it was previously considered a major problem (K. de Smet pers. comm. 2007).

Cheetahs are active during the daytime and there is concern that they can be driven off their kills by tourist cars crowding around, or mothers separated from their cubs. Burney (1980) conducted a study and concluded that tourist cars did not seem to harm cheetahs, and in fact sometimes helped, as cheetah chases more often ended in a kill when there were cars around, distracting prey, providing cover from which to stalk, or otherwise waking cheetahs up to notice prey in the area. However, tourist numbers have risen sharply by then, and its potential impact on cheetahs remains a concern (Caro 1994; Anon. 2007).

The Eastern African cheetah conservation strategy (Anon. 2007) identified four sets of constraints to mitigating these threats across a large spatial scale. Political constraints include lack of land use planning, insecurity and political instability in some ecologically important areas, and lack of political will to foster cheetah conservation. Economic constraints include lack of financial resources to support conservation, and lack of incentives for local people to conserve wildlife. Social constraints include negative conceptions of cheetahs, lack of capacity to achieve conservation, lack of environmental awareness, rising human populations, and social changes leading to subdivision of land and subsequent habitat fragmentation. These potentially mutable human constraints contrast with several biological constraints which are characteristic of cheetahs and cannot be changed, including wide-ranging behaviour, negative interactions with other large carnivores, and potential susceptibility to disease.

Disease is a potential threat to the cheetah (Anon. 2007), as its reduced genetic diversity can increase a population's susceptibility (O'Brien et al. 1983). However, the most serious disease mortality thus far documented in wild cheetahs was from naturally occurring anthrax in Namibia's Etosha National Park; cheetahs, unlike other predators, do not scavenge carcasses of ungulates killed by anthrax, and thus had no built-up immunity when they preyed upon springbok sick with the disease (Lindeque et al. 1998). The cheetah's low density may offer some measure of protection against infectious disease; for example, cheetahs were not affected by an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in the Serengeti National Park which killed over 1/3 of the lion population. Serological surveys of cheetahs on Namibian farmland indicate some exposure and survival of the disease (Marker 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix I of CITES and is protected under national legislation throughout most of its extant and some of its former range (Nowell and Jackson, 1996. However, a number of countries permit cheetahs to be killed in defence of life and livestock (Purchase et al., 2007). In Namibia, for example, one is permitted to retain the skin as long as the killing is reported (Nowell, 1996). Such policies may at least permit cheetah killing to be monitored.

Promotion of livestock management regimes which minimize conflict with cheetahs are an important conservation measure, pioneered by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia (Marker et al., 2003) but now being applied more widely. Elements of successful conservation management include availability of wild prey and more intensive livestock herd protection, especially using guard dogs.

The Asiatic Cheetah is protected in Iran. The main protected areas for this species include Kavir National Park, Khar Touran National Park and Naybandan Wildlife Refuge, Bafgh P.A., and Dar Anjir Wildlife Refuge. A radio-telemetry study in Iran is providing the first detailed data on cheetahs in Iran (Hunter et al. 2007).

In 2009, the Afghan Government placed this species on the country’s Protected Species List, meaning all hunting and trading of this species within Afghanistan is now illegal.

Several countries, including Namibia and Kenya, have developed national action plans or conservation strategies for cheetahs (Nowell, 1996; Durant, 2007); regional conservation strategies have been developed for Southern (Dickman et al., 2006; Anon., 2008) and Eastern Africa (Anon., 2007); and there is also a global strategy (Bartels et al., 2002). These plans call for a number of improvements in monitoring, surveys and information exchange (to better understand cheetah distribution and status); promotion of human-cheetah coexistence (to reduce conflict and develop incentives to conserve cheetahs); national land use planning (to ensure viable national cheetah populations); capacity building (to improve management); policy and legislation (to ensure legal consistency and remove loopholes) and advocacy (to raise awareness of and political commitment to cheetah conservation needs).

Several specialist networks of cheetah conservationists have been established, including the Global Cheetah Forum (affiliated with the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group) and the North African Regional Cheetah Action Group (NARCAG/OGRAN). The IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group maintains a Cheetah Conservation Compendium with a reference library and detailed country information (www.catsg.org)

Important protected areas that represent strongholds for Cheetah populations in Africa include the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa, Botswana), Nxai Pan and Chobe National Parks, and Okavango Delta (Botswana), Etosha N.P. (Namibia), Liuwa Plains N.P. (Zambia), and, of course, the Serengeti N.P. (Tanzania, Kenya) (Caro in press). In West Africa, the major remaining stronghold for the species is the WAPO protected areas complex. There is a surviving population of Cheetah in the Ahaggar National Park in Algeria (Wacher et al. 2005).

However, most cheetah occur outside of protected areas (where they are often persecuted as pests), and given their need for large areas they require conservation action on a landscape scale (for example, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, zoning for land-use to maintain habitat connectivity, and wild prey restoration) (Marker, 2002; Anon., 2007).

Citation: Durant, S., Marker, L., Purchase, N., Belbachir, F., Hunter, L., Packer, C., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Sogbohossou, E. & Bauer, H. 2008. Acinonyx jubatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 25 July 2014.
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