The endangered cheetah faces the possibility of extinction with its numbers continuing to dwindle thanks to a loss of habitat, largely due to ranching and an increasing human population in areas that formerly served as their habitat.
In the 1950s, there were between 20,000 and 40,000 cheetahs in the world. That number dropped by roughly 50 percent by the 1970s and is hovering in the range of 5,000 to 15,000 today. As their habitat in Africa shrinks, cheetahs have an increasingly difficult time finding enough food. When their habitat was larger, they were able to hunt and thrive. However, today they must compete with larger, more powerful predators, such as lions and hyenas, for limited game. This problem occurs in the wild as well as on game preserves.
However, in the wild cheetahs must also hide from human beings, particularly ranchers who are prone to shooting them out of fear that they are dangerous to their livestock.
In hopes of preventing cheetahs from going extinct, a number of captive breeding programs have sprung up in Africa and other parts of the world. So far, these programs appear to be successful, which makes the outlook less bleak. However, the problem of loss of habitat persists.