The geographic distribution of Acinonyx jubatus
EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD Google+ Profile
As everyone knows, cheetahs can run faster than any animal on earth. They're capable of short sprints as fast as 120 km/h (75 mph) and can reach such speeds from a standstill in just three seconds. But they cannot seem to outrun the various factors that have sent cheetah populations into drastic decline.
Formerly the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) was far more widespread (see map below right). In historic times cheetahs lived as far east as extreme eastern India and as far north as southern Kazakhstan. Moreover, two-million-year-old fossils are known from China.
But today the cheetah is almost entirely limited to sub-Saharan Africa. For the most part, these animals are now found only either in eastern Africa, around the border between southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, or in southern Africa (primarily northern Namibia, Botswana, and western Zambia). Outside Africa, there is only a small, critically endangered population in northeastern Iran.
Even the African populations are threatened and declining due to loss of habitat, decline in prey, poaching, and the cheetah's being shot as a livestock predator. The future of this beautiful animal looks bleak indeed.
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