Cheetahs are considered a vulnerable species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, a global conservation group that researches animal populations and grants endangered status. Although vulnerable status is not the same as endangered, the cheetah population suffers from hunting, habitat loss and inbreeding.
As of 2008, there are about 7,500 known cheetahs left in the wild. The total population is estimated to be less than 10,000, though some estimates place it as high as 12,400. The most vulnerable subspecies is the Asiatic cheetah, with only 50 to 60 surviving in Iran.
The country with the largest population of wild cheetahs is Namibia, and several other southern African countries also have sizable populations. East Africa is another stronghold, but in the north and west of Africa, populations have fallen or been wiped out entirely. One major problem faced by conservationists seeking to increase the cheetah's numbers is the high mortality rate of cubs. They are often killed by predators, and a lack of genetic diversity leads to frequent birth defects.