I have not written in a while and when I saw that Balekha wrote about poaching and horn trading, I thought I should tell you more about cheetahs, because we are in trouble too.
There are lots of reasons why we are in danger. Here are the four main problems:
Humans are number four on my list, but they are the number one danger to us and the reason for numbers two and three. I will explain all the problems, but first I must tell you a bit of cheetah history.
A long time ago cheetahs lived in Africa, North America, Asia and Europe. Today most of us live in eastern and southern Africa and you will find the biggest amount of cheetahs in Namibia, a country on the border of South Africa (where I live). We are friendlier than other big cats, like lions and leopards, and so people decided to keep us as pets and use us for hunting. When people meet us at Inverdoorn, Wilna tells them about Akbar the Great. He was the ruler of the Mogul Empire in India hundreds of years ago and one day he was given a cheetah as a present. The cheetah's name was Fatehbaz. Akbar liked Fatehbaz so much that he got more and more cheetahs and trained them for hunting. They were usually adults, because it is easier to train them since their mothers have already taught them how to hunt. In his lifetime, Akbar collected 9 000 cheetahs. Nine thousand cheetahs owned by one man...and today there are only about 6 000 cheetahs left in the whole wide world. Out of these 9 000 cheetahs, only one litter was born. One! Imagine if they had been in the wild. This will help you understand how many of us there used to be and how many have disappeared. Akbar was not the only person to keep cheetahs as pets and use them for hunting. There were many other people too, like Genghis Khan, Charlemagne, Frederick II and lots of other royals and nobles in India, France, Italy and England.
Things are not always easy for us in the wild. We are good hunters. We can run very fast and have good eyesight, but we have competition from other predators and this means we sometimes lose our prey to them. Our competition is usually from lions and hyenas, but luckily the lions at Inverdoorn cannot get to us and we do not have hyenas. This is one of the reasons cheetahs hunt during the day. Lions and hyenas mostly hunt at night, so if we switch to the daytime there is less competition and they will not chase us or steal our food. We are very fast cats, but also delicate and a fight with a strong lion or a sneaky hyena (who has very powerful jaws) would be very scary. But that is the way of the wild and we are so clever that we made a plan to survive.
The problem that is very difficult for us is the humans. There used to be lots and lots of cheetahs in the world, but people started becoming more and more. This means that all these new humans needed space to live and so they started taking our space. Now because there were too many cheetahs in too little space, in-breeding started happening, which means that brothers and sisters and cousins would mate. When this happens genes become weak and the cheetah might struggle to survive. Today one in every four cubs in a litter is born with a genetic weakness. That is what happened to me: I was born with a problem in my legs, but Damien and my other friends at Inverdoorn saved me (you can read my story here).
This is not the only problem with humans. Some of them (called farmers) think we are threats to the animals on their farms so they shoot us. This problem has become a little better, because people helping cheetahs and other wild animals have taught the farmers to trap the cheetahs and then release them, instead of killing us.
Another human problem is fashion. A female human called Jackie Kennedy started an awful craze when she wore a leopard-skin coat and because she was beautiful and a lot of people liked her, they all wanted to wear the same thing. Soon humans started making more coats like this using skins from leopards, jaguars, tigers, ocelots and cheetahs – which meant that even more big cats were being killed.
I live in Africa of course, but there are also some of us in Asia and they are called Asiatic cheetahs. Remember that I said there are only 6 000 of us left? There are less than 100 of us in Asia. My special home is at Inverdoorn and it is called the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation. The humans that work there rescue cheetahs and make them better and give them a lot of love and care. A lot of us came from really horrible places, like Velvet, who lived in a terrible place where people did not care for her and even slammed her tail in a door! In our home, where our friends like Leah and Marlene look after us, cheetahs that are not related are put together for mating. So if you cross your fingers and toes and I cross my claws, there might be a cute litter of cubs at Inverdoorn very soon and a few more cheetahs in the world.
PO BOX 304 SEA POINT 8060
CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA