Cheetah have disappeared from huge areas of their historic range. They still occur widely, but sparsely, in Africa, but Durant et al (in press) estimate that cheetah have disappeared from 88% of their historic range on the continent. Of their remaining range, only 21% is protected.
Southern and Eastern Africa are the species strongholds, although there has still been significant range loss in parts of these regions. Current distribution in several countries remains largely unknown (e.g. Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia). Cheetah are known to be extirpated from large areas in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi. In some parts of southern Africa they occur extensively outside protected areas on commercial ranch land where other large predators (lions and hyenas) have been extirpated (e.g. Botswana and Namibia) (Purchase et al. 2007).
Southern Africa is the cheetah’s regional stronghold, with a “roughly” estimated population of 4,213 adults (RWCP 2016). A large proportion of the estimated population (73.5%) lives outside protected areas, in lands ranched primarily for livestock but also for wild game, and where lions and hyenas have been extirpated.
Overall, only 21% of the estimated cheetah population across Africa inhabits protected areas (IUCN categories I-IV). In addition, approximately 50% live in habitat blocks which are trans-boundary, requiring international cooperation for conservation of the population.
In comparison with other big cats, cheetah occur at relatively low densities (10-30% of typical densities for lions, leopards, tigers and jaguars in prime habitat: Durant, 2007). On the Serengeti plains, cheetah densities range from 0.8-1.0 per 100 km², but seasonally cheetah can congregate at densities up to 40 per 100 km² (Caro 1994). Caro (1994) attributes lower cheetah densities to interspecific competition (especially with larger species such as lions and hyenas that can kill cheetah cubs), but on Namibian farmlands, where lions and hyenas have been eradicated, cheetah still occur at low densities (0.2 per 100 km²) (Marker 2002). Sizes of territories and home ranges can vary greatly (37-3000 km²).