Cheetahs, the word's fastest land animals, are racing toward extinction because of habitat loss and human interference, according to new research.
Before 1900, the combined cheetah population in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia had numbered more than 100,000, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
Now, only 7,100 cheetahs remain worldwide and as their numbers dwindle, they are at an increased risk of extinction, according to a new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The new study calls for the threat status of the cheetah to be increased from "vulnerable" to "endangered" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.
"Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked," Dr. Sarah Durant, the report's lead author and researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society told the BBC. "Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought."
Research revealed that cheetahs have lost 91 percent of their habitat.
And the cheetah population in Asia has taken the hardest hit, with fewer than 50 still living in Iran, according to the study.
In addition, the cheetah population in Zimbabwe fell to about 170 in 2015. That's down from 1,200 in 1999, according to CNN.
Researchers said the population decline is due to a number of factors including the species' dwindling habitat, loss of prey, illegal wildlife trafficking.
The study also noted that 77 percent of the cheetah's habitat falls outside of protected areas, making the species more vulnerable.
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