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Cheetahs could soon be EXTINCT in the African Savannah, study reveals

Cheetahs are an iconic animal of the African savanna, but scientists warn that this majestic cat and other large carnivores are on the brink of extinction – and it’s humans’ fault.

Along with the spotted mammals are wild dogs and hyenas that may soon disappear due to habitat loss, human persecution and reduced prey.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that the plight of the animals has been overlooked due to a focus on lions, leopards and other top predators, and regions such as South Africa, Kenya and northern west and central Africa are underrepresented.

Specifically, 26 countries currently lack published estimates – notably Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Chad.

Identifying knowledge gaps will improve conservation efforts by guiding funding, investments and priorities, according to scientists.

Cheetahs living in the African savanna are on the brink of extinction, but a lack of focus on the region has left the dwindling numbers unnoticed

Lead author Dr. Paolo Strampelli, from the University of Oxford, said: ‘Research efforts are significantly biased towards lions and towards striped hyenas, despite the latter being the species with the widest continental range.

‘African wild dogs also showed a negative bias in research attention, although this can be partly explained by its relatively limited distribution.’

The African savanna ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperatures year-round and seasonal rainfall.

Characterized by grasses and small or scattered trees, the savanna is the largest biome in South Africa – covering 46 percent of the region.

The savanna (dark, tan color) is characterized by grasses and small or scattered trees and is the largest biome in South Africa - covering 46 percent of the region

The savanna (dark, tan color) is characterized by grasses and small or scattered trees and is the largest biome in South Africa – covering 46 percent of the region

It covers Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi , Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa.

Scientists estimate that fewer than 8,000 African cheetahs in all of Africa.

Due to a lack of study of the savannah, scientists cannot determine how many live in the region, but it is probably less than half.

Data from 2016 showed the population was around 2,000 and 90 percent live in protected areas.

“Our findings highlight the urgent need for further assessments of the cheetah population, particularly in northern, western and central Africa,” Strampelli said.

‘Due to their large land area, studies in Chad and Ethiopia in particular should be considered a priority.’

Hyenas flourish throughout Africa with more than 100,000 individuals, but that number drops drastically across the savannah.

However, wild dogs suffer the most – an estimated 70 adults remain in the wild.

The study in the journal PeerJ is the first of its kind – based on a systematic review of population estimates over the past two decades.

The international team found that biodiversity monitoring may not be evenly distributed or occur where it is most needed.

Computer models showed that assessments have been biased towards South Africa and Kenya. North, West and Central Africa are underrepresented.

Hyenas flourish throughout Africa with more than 100,000 individuals, but that number drops drastically across the savannah

Hyenas flourish throughout Africa with more than 100,000 individuals, but that number drops drastically across the savannah

However, wild dogs suffer the most - an estimated 70 adults remain in the wild

However, wild dogs suffer the most – an estimated 70 adults remain in the wild

Most studies have been conducted in tourist areas under government management; unprotected and trophy hunting regions received less attention.

Reducing biases will help ensure that all species and areas of conservation importance have an adequate knowledge base available, potentially improving their prospects, according to scientists.

Strampelli and colleagues urged donors and foreign researchers to maximize the involvement of local scientists, students and practitioners in future assessments.

These include the provision of training, funding and equipment. Donors and funders should encourage efforts in understudied regions and species.

This will ensure that conservation takes place where it is most needed. Population assessments of striped hyenas are required.

Further population assessments of African wild dogs are essential, especially given that the species is endangered.

Such efforts are especially required in countries identified as critical for the species.

Recent assessments have not been conducted in some countries, including Botswana and Tanzania.

“Further assessments of the cheetah population are urgently needed, particularly in northern, western and central Africa,” Strampelli said.

‘Due to their large land area, studies in Chad and Ethiopia in particular should be considered a priority.

“As in the case of the African wild dog, the development and standardization of techniques for monitoring the cheetah population, including exploration of citizen science approaches, is recommended.”