The following Intervention was presented by Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director, and Dr. Shira Yashphe, CCF’s Wildlife Crime Lead, at the 19th Conference of Parties (CoP19) held in Panama. The date of the meeting of Committee II was the 21st of November.
Thank you Chair,
The Cheetah Conservation Fund currently has 94 cheetahs recovered from illegal trade under our care in Hargeisa, with the last cub arriving today at the age of 2 months. As I am sure everyone here will agree, these members of the Appendix I listed species should be in the wild, not in a safe house.
These confiscated cheetahs are asking for your help today.
These confiscated cheetahs are living evidence of the challenge posed by illegal trafficking in live cheetahs in the region.
This is a challenge that is shared by all concerned:
- governments of countries impacted by trafficking,
- other CITES member states,
- NGO partners,
- and anyone concerned about the fate of this species.
Cooperation begins with recognition and acceptance of the challenge. It is built by cross-regional communication and information sharing, and it is realized through joint action on cheetah protection and law enforcement initiatives.
We therefore urge both Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula Parties to meet and discuss a joint way forward, beginning as soon as possible (we suggest early 2023) and support the rest of the US proposed revisions. We heard range countries ask for support from the Arabian Peninsula here today and we believe that this will indeed be a positive way forward.
As cheetah experts and national/international NGOs, we would be first in line to participate and lend support to any such cross-regional effort to save the cheetah.
We know that it is within the power of the governments represented here to take action, and only through addressing this as a regional challenge, where it is to everyone’s interests to get to the bottom of this illegal trade and stop it, could real change happen.
We heard Parties say that they do not have records of cheetah cubs entering their country or confiscated…
We urge these countries to nonetheless take a leadership role in their region which is affected by this trade, to join hands and look together at the available evidence and even conduct their own investigations and see how they can best contribute to cross-regional efforts to save the cheetah.
We also heard the wish to address this issue through the CITES Big Cats Task Force and the joint CITES – CMS (Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals) African Carnivores Initiative. While we thank Parties and the Secretariat for the hard work already done to establish the two initiatives, we remind everyone that their launch was delayed due to COVID-19 and that it would take yet more time for them to become fully operational.
With the small numbers of cheetah remaining in the wild and with one cub after the other dying en-route to illegal markets, we know that action needs to happen as soon as possible. Therefore, outcomes of the early 2023 cross-regional meeting we propose would inform the work of the BCTF and ACI, while allowing Parties of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to devise an emergency plan to save the cheetah. This is not a duplication of efforts, as was just suggested on the floor, but a realistic approach where an emergency situation is treated as such, and urgent action is taken to address it.
The trade is happening, we see it every day – Parties of the Horn and the Arabian Peninsula – please join hands and help us protect them.