A year ago, scientists reported that cheetahs had disappeared from across 91 percent of their historic range.
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), the researchers recommended in their study, should be up-listed from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Doing this could afford the imperiled species greater attention and support, they said.
The cheetah, however, remains officially listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Now, in a new study, scientists have called for up-listing the species to Endangered yet again.
By analyzing millions of cheetah observations, a team of researchers have concluded that only about 3,577 adult cheetahs remain in southern Africa–within an area of 789,800 square kilometers across Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. More than 55 percent of these cheetahs live in Namibia alone, the researchers reported in the study published in the journal PeerJ.
"This is the area with the largest population of free-ranging cheetahs left on Earth," lead author of the study Varsha Vijay of Duke University said in a statement. "Knowing how many cheetahs there are and where they occur is crucial for developing suitable conservation management plans for the species."
The researchers also estimate that there could be an additional 3,250 cheetahs living in potential habitat areas, or places where cheetahs can possibly live but where they have not been observed recently. But the team has lower confidence in this estimate. "We know about three and a half thousand cheetahs. There could be twice as many, but we can't prove it," Florian Weise of the U.S.-based conservation group Claws Conservancy, also a lead author of the study, told National Geographic news.
Rhett A. Butler
Of the 3,577 known cheetahs, less than 50 percent live inside some form of protected area, such as Kruger National Park in South Africa, the study estimates. The rest live on unprotected lands, mostly allocated for livestock or game production. Many farmers who share their land with cheetahs, consider the animals to be a source of conflict, the researchers found. While only a few resort to actually killing or trapping the animals, the researchers say that persecution by even a few farmers can cause cheetah populations to decline.
"The future of the cheetah relies heavily on working with farmers who host these big cats on their lands, bearing the heaviest cost of coexistence," said Weise.
Given that the study's population estimate for the cheetah is 11 percent lower than the IUCN's current assessment for the same region, the authors write that the species should be urgently up-listed from Vulnerable to Endangered status. This revision of status could help conservationists create more awareness about the species and "open more avenues to fund conservation and population monitoring efforts," they said in the statement. This study was supported by the National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
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The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.