Namibia. When you gaze deep into the large liquid eyes of a cheetah, they reveal the soul of a great survivor, and a glimpse into a fragile future. Cheetahs may be the fastest animal on earth but today they are racing extinction. Loss of habitat and their natural prey, hunting by humans and the illegal trade in cheetah cubs have had a devastating impact on their survival. Up to 300 cheetah cubs are stolen from the wilds of East and Central Africa each year and smuggled to the Middle East where they are prized as exotic pets fetching up to $ 10,000 each. 70% of the cubs do not survive the journey.
Today just 7100 cheetahs remain in Africa along with 40 Asiatic cheetahs clinging on in Iran. On two occasions these elegant big cats have recovered from bottlenecks - a greatly reduced population leading to inbreeding. The first occurred around 100,000 years ago when cheetahs expanded their range into Asia, Europe, and Africa. The second around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. In this bottleneck the cheetahs of North America and Europe went extinct, leaving only the Asian and African populations. As large mammals died out across the world, the number of surviving cheetahs dwindled, which caused extreme inbreeding. Even though the number of cheetahs grew to as many as 100,000 during the 19th century, their genetic variability remained low due to the events that took place thousands of years earlier.
Angie's beautiful portrait captures the poignancy of our troubled relationship with wild creatures. It speaks to us of the need to make amends. Only by reconnecting with nature and nurturing the Planet - rather than simply exploiting it - can we restore a sense of balance to our world - and theirs.
For more information about Jonathan & Angela Scott, check out their Artist Bio page or visit TheBigCatPeople.com.
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