Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) CMS STATUS Appendix I (except populations in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe) CMS INSTRUMENT(S) None
Historically present across Africa and into western Asia, cheetahs have experienced major contractions in range and population size, threatening the survival of the species. It now occurs in less than one-tenth of its historical range in eastern Africa, and just one-fifth in southern Africa. It has all but disappeared from Asia, apart from an isolated pocket in Iran. Southern and eastern Africa both hold globally significant populations, about one-third of which move across international boundaries. Information on the status of the species in many countries, and especially in north and central Africa, is limited.
Threats to migration pathways Habitat loss and fragmentation represent the over-arching threat to cheetahs. With annual home ranges of up to 3,000 km2, they need far larger areas to survive than almost any other terrestrial carnivore species. The majority of the cheetah’s known range falls outside government-protected areas, mainly on community and private lands that are not secure from economic development and often face intense land use pressures. There can also be conflict with subsistence pastoralists and commercial ranchers if cheetahs kill livestock, although they prefer wild prey. To the north of their range, the loss of availability of wild prey is also a major cause of decline.
Opportunities for ecological networks Most cheetah populations inside protected areas are too small to remain viable if they are isolated from surrounding lands, and without active management, they are likely to eventually go extinct. It is thought that viable cheetah populations require areas in excess of 10,000 km2. This requires maintaining connectivity across a landscape of protected areas and multi-use environments in a systematic way. The transboundary nature of many cheetah populations makes cooperation and management across national borders essential for their survival.
Protecting the cheetah’s range also benefits other migratory wildlife, including those not currently protected by international agreements such as Appendix I of the CMS. The Serengeti-
Mara-Tsavo landscape, for example, is home not only to a globally important population of cheetahs, but also to vast numbers of migratory wildebeest, zebra, eland and Thomson’s gazelle. In 2011, the Tanzanian government ensured that the proposed commercial road network would not bisect the Serengeti and all roads inside the park remain under the park management. This will help to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem and safeguard all of these populations.