The illegal pet trade has become a growing threat to cheetahs in the wild. While their skin and bones have been trafficked for traditional medicine and fashion, the trafficking of very young cheetah as pets has become disturbingly prevalent. CCF estimates that approximately 300 cheetahs are smuggled out annually from northeast Africa to become someone’s pet, likely in the Gulf States.
The conditions under which the cheetahs are captured and smuggled are deplorable and CCF estimates that, for every cheetah cub that survives, five will not. Those that live end up in environments where their owners have neither the expertise nor knowledge to care for them properly, and these animals invariably suffer in confinement or with compromised health.
This fall in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the triennial meeting (CoP17) of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) illegal wildlife trafficking of the cheetah was a key agenda item, as were issues related to elephants, lions, rhinos, as well as many other species.
CCF has been actively engaged with seven other NGOs and eleven countries that are impacted by the illegal trade. These organizations have been working diligently for more than three years with regular exchanges at CITES committee meetings.
Patricia Tricorache, CCF’s assistant director for communications and illegal wildlife trade, and Dr. Laurie Marker attended CITES in Johannesburg, and they were very pleased that the recommendations made earlier this year were all unanimously adopted. The recommendations related to public awareness and education, cooperation and information exchange, enforcement and disposal of confiscated cheetah.
As Patricia has noted, “Key outcomes included the creation of a Cheetah Trade Resource Kit to support enforcement personnel on cheetah identification and procedures in case of confiscations, the establishment of a Cheetah Forum that will allow the participation of all stakeholders including NGOs, and the engagement of social media for support in stopping the practice of selling cheetahs online and raising awareness.” Dr. Laurie Marker adds that identifying sanctuaries for confiscated cheetah will be key to aiding the cheetah.
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