On July 28, 2023, a significant leap forward in cheetah conservation took place as we warmly welcomed a delegation of esteemed Somaliland dignitaries. The goal of their visit was to gain an up-close understanding of our latest initiative—the Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre (CRCC) in Geed-Deeble, Somaliland.
Among the dignitaries were prominent figures such as Bashir Goth, Somaliland Representative to the United States and Canada, and Mohamoud Hassan Saad, Minister of Commerce, Industries, and Tourism. Their journey through the CRCC was a comprehensive one, encompassing visits to the medical and veterinary clinic, meat processing facilities, and the expansive cheetah enclosures. Guided by Natalie Santerre and her dedicated Cheetah Team, the delegation gained insight into each animal’s unique journey, concluding at the enclosure of Milo, a male leopard who had been recently relocated to Geed-Deeble.
“It was a great opportunity and pleasure to visit the CRCC. I am very proud of what CCF has achieved. I have lived with the project from concept to where we are today,” said Representative Goth after the tour.
The CRCC’s story began with the initiation of construction in December 2021, aiming to provide a haven mirroring the natural habitats of these animals. This visit was particularly poignant for Representative Goth, who had been present at the groundbreaking ceremony in 2021. Reflecting on the journey, he expressed pride in witnessing the project’s transformation from concept to reality.
Situated an hour north of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, the CRCC spans 800 hectares adjacent to Somaliland’s inaugural national park, Geed-Deeble, covering an impressive 50,000 hectares. The CRCC’s establishment aligns seamlessly with collaborative efforts to nurture Geed-Deeble, a partnership between CCF and the Somaliland government. By July, the CRCC had welcomed its final residents from CCF’s safe houses in Hargeisa, offering a sanctuary to these orphaned cubs, far removed from the clutches of the illegal wildlife trade. The CRCC’s spacious and natural enclosures aim to provide them with a semblance of the life they were denied.
A Unified Front Against Cheetah Trafficking
The visit not only showcased the CRCC’s tangible accomplishments but also underscored collective efforts in combating cheetah trafficking. Collaborating with MoECC, CCF has championed a comprehensive approach to address this pressing issue. The delegation received insights from CCF’s research and education team, highlighting initiatives such as wildlife coexistence training for pastoralists—an instrumental program aptly named Future Farmers of Africa. This training addresses regions where cheetah trafficking and human-wildlife conflicts are prevalent, aiming to curtail the trade at its roots. Additionally, plans are underway to launch educational programs for teachers and students, a joint effort between MoECC and the Ministry of Education, to thwart cheetah cub trafficking through foundational education.
The ongoing initiatives of CCF and MoECC have garnered international support, with funding from entities like the UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These endeavors encompass diverse aspects including law enforcement, education, and demand reduction, forming a comprehensive strategy to combat illegal wildlife trade.
Despite cheetahs being accorded the highest protection under CITES, the reality remains starkly different. CCF’s research exposes the gravity of the situation, revealing hundreds of cheetahs trafficked from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula between 2010 and 2019—a dire threat to a species already battling dwindling numbers in the wild. CCF’s active engagement in crucial international forums places them at the forefront of discussions concerning the conservation of cheetahs.
In culmination, the delegation left the CRCC with a profound sense of appreciation for the endeavors undertaken. The meticulous development of the center, coupled with the dedication of the international and local CCF team, made an enduring impression. Gratitude extends to the unwavering supporters who have rallied behind this cause, with the hope that continued education and awareness initiatives will quell the demand for illegal cheetah trade. The CRCC stands as a testament to the power of collective conservation efforts, illuminating a path towards a promising future for these magnificent creatures.
We thank all our supporters for their dedication to helping save these cheetahs from the illegal wildlife pet trade and hope that through the education and awareness being conducted now and the past couple of years that we can stop the illegal pet trade so no more cheetahs will be coming to the Centre in the future. In a world where wildlife conservation remains a paramount concern, the CRCC emerges as a beacon of collective endeavor and dedication. As each rescued cheetah finds solace within the CRCC’s embrace, a compelling narrative of survival and triumph unfolds, promising a brighter future for both these creatures and the delicate ecosystems they inhabit.
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