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The Only Cheetah Genetics Laboratory in Africa

According to researchers, over a hundred years ago, 100,000 wild cheetahs roamed across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But today the global population has dwindled to roughly just over 7,000. In the remote city of Otjiwarongo in Northern Namibia, scientists are working hard to restore the cheetah population through conservation science. The Cheetah Conservation Fund says it holds the world’s largest wild cheetah database of biological material along with blood, tissue, semen and egg samples collected from over a thousand cheetahs. Understanding a cheetah’s genetic makeup has allowed conservation scientists to understand why the cheetah has declined dramatically in population. “We started realizing that this was a unique species,” said Laurie Marker, who founded the Applied Biosystems Conservation Genetics Laboratory in Namibia. “Our early studies have identified everything you’d like to know about a cheetah.” According to Marker, one of the biggest challenges cheetahs face is a low genetic diversity. She says because the population is so similar, an outbreak of disease could wipe them out entirely.