Cheetahs are found across Africa, primarily in northern Africa; the Sahel (the transition region between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south); and they are scattered across eastern and southern Africa, according to the Smithsonian. A small population lives in Iran, where they are critically endangered.
Cheetahs live in a variety of environments. According to the African wildlife foundation, cheetahs can be found in dry forests, grasslands, open plains and desert regions.
These large felines do not need much water to survive — they get most of what they need while eating.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN), Red list of threatened species, most cheetah subspecies are considered vulnerable.
All populations of cheetah are in the decline, with the total population estimated at less than 7,000 individuals.
According to the Smithsonian, there were at least 100,000 cheetahs living throughout western Asia and across african in 1900. Now, the cats are extinct in at least 13 of their native countries and have lost as much as 90 percent of their original range.
The largest population of cheetahs is a group of approximately 2,500 in Namibia.
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, the cheetahs steep population decline is associated with issues such as habitat loss, human conflict and illegal trade and poaching.
Conservation efforts are underway to try and help the population regrow. Groups such as the African Wildlife Foundation and the cheetah conservation fund work locally with communities near cheetah populations to create sustainable solutions for agriculture and population growth so that both the cats and humans have space. Protected areas and wildlife parks, such as the cheetah experience in South Africa, protect cheetahs as their habitats are taken away.
Captive breeding programs at zoos, such as the San Diego Zoo and the Smithsonian National Zoo, are working to help the cheetah population grow.
The programs are also striving to overcome the lack of genetic variation within wild cheetah populations.
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