Known to be one of the fastest animals in the world, conservation of the cheetah shows that, without research and support for this species, not even the cheetah can escape extinction . This species of Old World feline is threatened by several factors, and one of them is its peculiar life history.
Conservation of the cheetah: its delicate genome
About 12 000 years ago, in the late Pleistocene, there were cheetahs in America, Europe and Asia. Their abrupt extinction of all these areas produced what is known as a bottleneck : with few survivors of a species, the genetic variability is reduced, something that the descendants suffer and that has consequences for their reproduction and its resistance to infectious diseases, something very important for the conservation of the cheetah.
This scarce genetic variability and homozygosis, even higher than in species such as the mountain gorilla, has had consequences: cheetahs have enormous problems reproducing themselves, at least in captivity.
A study published in 1981 revealed that the sperm concentration of semen from several cheetahs was 10 times lower than that of cats , and that 71% of these had morphological alterations.