Getting Wild With… Cheetahs!

By Sabine Teel, age 12

Cheetahs, as many people know, are the fastest land animal in the world. They can reach speeds of up to 61 miles per hour, and their stride length reaches an incredible 23 feet. Because cheetahs are typically smaller than other wild cats, like lions or tigers, they are more agile and can use their long tails to spin midair, making it easier for them to anticipate their prey’s next move.

Cheetahs have lived in many regions throughout Africa, like the Sahel and northern, southern and eastern Africa. But sadly, over the past 50 years, cheetahs have gone extinct in more than 13 countries and now live only in parts of southern and eastern Africa. Now that there are just 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, the U.S. Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed cheetahs as endangered. And, according to National Geographic, this isn’t the first time that cheetahs were close to extinction; they have been twice before.

Cheetahs face many threats in the wild, most of which are due to humans. Game hunters have been known to kill or capture cheetahs as trophies. Farmers also often kill cheetahs for fear that they will eat their livestock. Often cheetahs have no choice, as humans increasingly destroy their habitats to build roads and cities.
In 2022, 70 years after cheetahs went extinct in India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi organized an experiment to reintroduce cheetahs to India. Sent from Namibia, eight cheetahs traveled by plane to make their comeback in India’s Kuno National Park. Modi said that with the reintroduction of cheetahs, “grasslands will be restored, biodiversity will increase and eco-tourism will get a boost.” As great as this is, there could be negative consequences to the move. Some have said that the experiment is a publicity stunt to improve tourism, and Mayukh Chatterjee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature said that if the cheetahs were brought back, there could be “cascading and unintended consequences.”

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