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CHEETAH } Acinonyx jubatus

RANGE: Scattered throughout Africa, with a small population persisting in southwestern Asia

STATUS: The cheetah is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. With fewer than 100 individuals surviving, the Asiatic cheetah subspecies is considered Critically Endangered.

THREATS: Habitat loss due to human encroachment, prey shortages, cub mortality due to predation by other carnivores, and genetic inbreeding

It’s common knowledge that cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet. From a standstill, they can reach their top speed of 70 miles per hour in just three seconds — faster than most supercars. But what’s not as well known is how vulnerable these speedy cats have become. They depend on vast expanses of open land for food, but urban and agricultural expansion is gobbling up cheetah habitat at an alarming rate, wiping out the cheetah’s food sources as it goes. Worst of all, decreasing cheetah numbers have led to increased inbreeding and genetic abnormalities. Researchers fear that without lightning-quick intervention to save cheetah food sources and habitat, this timid predator might not be able to outrun human encroachment much longer.

Photo © Robin Silver