Genetic support to uplist an African cheetah subspecies, Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii, imperiled by illegal trade

  • December 14, 2023
  • by Schmidt-Küntzel A., Yashphe S., Hamalwa H., Tricorache, P., Ismail S.H., Brewer B., Obrien S.J., Marker L. L.

There has been a drastic decline in the number of cheetahs in the past century. Illegal pet trade poses a critical threat to the survival of the species and demands more attention. Genetic analysis of 55 cheetahs confiscated in Somaliland shows 100% as Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii, suggesting that illegal trade subjects A. j. soemmeringii to significant pressure. Continued decline of the estimated 260–590 mature individuals qualifies this subspecies as “endangered” versus currently “vulnerable,” under criterion C2a(i) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. A population decline of ≥80% over the next 10 years or 3 generations would even fulfill criterion A3 of “critically endangered.” We urge reclassification of A. j. soemmeringii, as endangered, and appeal to the cheetah community to investigate further uplisting to critically endangered to reflect the likely extinction risk exacerbated by the illegal trade.

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