Cheetah conservation is generally defined as the actions of individuals and organizations to preserve the life and habitat of cheetahs. As the oldest species of the big cats and the fastest land animals alive, cheetahs once roamed Asia, Africa and even North America. Their domain and their numbers, because of various factors, have drastically dwindled, and as of 2011, there were roughly 10,000 to 15,000 cheetahs remaining. As a result, they were considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Wildlife conservation organizations help endangered animals such as the cheetah. The Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, for example, has been in place since 1990, with the goal of conserving cheetah resources and habitat as well as implementing programs in the community to encourage understanding about the plight of this threatened animal. Other organizations that offer environmental conservation resources and efforts to save the cheetah and the cheetah habitat include Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Cheetah Outreach and other members of the Cheetah Conservation Compendium.
Threats from humans and the environment contribute to the need for cheetah conservation efforts. Although humans have taken up the efforts to preserve the cheetah, they also represent one of the largest threats to cheetahs because human encroachment has limited their natural habitat and reduced their prey. Encounters between cheetahs and ranchers often end in the animal's death by gunshot, particularly when livestock are in jeopardy. Another threat to cheetahs comes from their inability to defend their cubs and their kills from larger, more aggressive predators. Cheetahs are built more for speed than strength, and they will often give up their catch to the stronger predator when approached.
Methods of conservation vary depending on these threats. To prevent further loss from contact with farmers, conservation groups have implemented non-lethal programs that encourage farmers to use alternative methods to protect their livestock. For example, farmers have been encouraged to use the dogs to deter cheetahs from attacking livestock. In addition, educational programs also have been put in place to teach farmers, the general public and the international community as a whole about the need for conserving cheetahs and their habitat.
Genetic defects are another problem that conservation efforts have attempted to address. Cheetahs share about 90 percent of the same genes because of excessive inbreeding, making them — on a genetic level — as similar to one another as twins. As a result, they are susceptible to diseases and defects that have the potential to completely wipe out the species.
Defective sperm is a problem that reduces cheetahs' ability to successfully reproduce. To increase the genetic diversity of cheetahs, efforts have been made to breed those that are kept in captivity. In vitro fertilization techniques are used to impregnate female cheetahs using the sperm and egg of cheetahs that are least related to one another.