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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jan 17;114(3):528-533. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611122114. Epub 2016 Dec 27.

The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation.

Author information

1
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London NW1 4RY, United Kingdom; s.durant@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, NY 10460.
3
Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.
4
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London NW1 4RY, United Kingdom.
5
Department of Geography, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.
6
Panthera, New York, NY 10018.
7
Zambian Carnivore Programme, Mfuwe, Zambia.
8
Conservation Biology and Ecology Program, Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.
9
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX13 5QL, United Kingdom.
10
Mara Cheetah Project, Kenya Wildlife Trust, Kenya.
11
Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa.
12
Bwabwata Ecological Institute, Susuwe Park Station, Zambezi Region, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia.
13
Office National du Parc Culturel du Tassili N'Ajjer, Djanet, Algeria.
14
Laboratoire d'Écologie et Environnement, Université de Béjaïa, Béjaïa, Algeria.
15
Nature Conservation Department, Environment General Authority (EGA), Tripoli, Libya.
16
Institute of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Luanda, Angola.
17
Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management (KORA), 3074 Muri, Switzerland.
18
International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group, 3074 Muri, Switzerland.
19
Kenya Wildlife Service, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya.
20
Cheetah Outreach Trust, Paardevlei, South Africa.
21
Endangered Wildlife Trust, Johannesburg, South Africa.
22
Department of Wildlife Management and Ecotourism, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia.
23
Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana.
24
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.
25
Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Tehran 15856-86341, Iran.
26
Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Program, Department of Environment, Tehran, Iran.
27
Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
28
Department Evolutionary Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, 10315 Berlin, Germany.
29
Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Chilanga, Zambia.
30
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Arusha, Tanzania.
31
Working Dogs for Conservation, Bozeman, MT 59771.
32
Direction de la Faune, de la Chasse et des Aires Protégées, Niamey, Niger.
33
Nigeria National Park Service, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria.
34
Consultant, Gaborone, Botswana.
35
Laboratory of Applied Ecology, University of Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin.
36
Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Cairo, Egypt.
37
Carnivore Research Malawi, Conservation Research Africa, Lilongwe, Malawi.
38
Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
39
Naankuse Foundation, Windhoek, Namibia.
40
Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya.

Abstract

Establishing and maintaining protected areas (PAs) are key tools for biodiversity conservation. However, this approach is insufficient for many species, particularly those that are wide-ranging and sparse. The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus exemplifies such a species and faces extreme challenges to its survival. Here, we show that the global population is estimated at ∼7,100 individuals and confined to 9% of its historical distributional range. However, the majority of current range (77%) occurs outside of PAs, where the species faces multiple threats. Scenario modeling shows that, where growth rates are suppressed outside PAs, extinction rates increase rapidly as the proportion of population protected declines. Sensitivity analysis shows that growth rates within PAs have to be high if they are to compensate for declines outside. Susceptibility of cheetah to rapid decline is evidenced by recent rapid contraction in range, supporting an uplisting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List threat assessment to endangered. Our results are applicable to other protection-reliant species, which may be subject to systematic underestimation of threat when there is insufficient information outside PAs. Ultimately, conserving many of these species necessitates a paradigm shift in conservation toward a holistic approach that incentivizes protection and promotes sustainable human-wildlife coexistence across large multiple-use landscapes.

KEYWORDS:

landscape conservation; megafauna; population viability analysis; protected areas; threat assessment

PMID:
28028225
PMCID:
PMC5255576
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1611122114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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