HARGEISA, Somaliland (20 December 2021) – Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) welcomed a delegation of United States Congressional Staff arriving in the Republic of Somaliland on Monday December 13, 2021. The first event of a four-day itinerary packed with meetings and tours, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr Laurie Marker, briefed the delegation on the status of the illegal wildlife trade in cheetahs at its Safe House project in the capital city of Hargeisa. The American government delegation is the highest-level to visit Somaliland in well over a decade. Comprised of staff representing the Senate Foreign Relations, House Foreign Affairs and House Appropriations and Conservation Committees, the delegation included a senior staff member from a sponsor of the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act, a law CCF helped promote when introduced in 2016.
“We are very pleased to present our Somaliland Safe House project to this important group of visitors”, said Dr Marker. “The cubs are a living testament to illegal wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict, two threats which are driving cheetahs closer to extinction in the Horn of Africa. Seeing 69 confiscated cubs in three Safe Houses all within one neighbourhood of Hargeisa, a city with one million people, the scale of the problem is undeniable. We are glad for the delegation to bear witness, and now, to engage with CCF on creating solutions”.
The delegation met with members of Somaliland’s government and opposition parties, along with Somaliland’s civil societies, education, health, and conservation institutions. The itinerary for the trip included a visit to the coastal city of Berbera, it’s port and the city’s recently renovated airport; the University of Hargeisa; Laas Geel, a UNESCO sight featuring rock art estimated to be 20,000 years-old; Abaarso School of Science and Technology, and Barwaaqo University for women, and other key locations of interest. On Thursday, the delegation toured the area known as Geed-Deeble, a forest reserve about an hour’s drive from Hargeisa. This is the place where CCF is building a Cheetah Rescue & Conservation Centre (CRCC) to permanently house the confiscated cheetah cubs.
The CRCC for Somaliland is based on CCF’s world-renowned Centre in Namibia. The new facility is set on more than 800 hectares and will include education and vocational training facilities for teachers, pastoralists, wildlife and eco-rangers, and local CRCC staff, plus large, naturalistic enclosures to shelter the cubs. After construction, the CRCC will be open for public tours, with the purpose of educating Somalilanders and international visitors about the country’s ecosystems and wildlife. For three decades, CCF will operate and train Somaliland people to operate the CRCC. At the end of 30 years, CCF will hand over the facility to the Somaliland government.
Congressional staffers, generally responsible for working with the individual members of Congress or committees they are assigned to, are also charged with helping formulate major policy positions at the technical level. Their reports and due diligence are used as the evidence that informs the U.S. government’s position on global issues. Their visit to Somaliland is the first step in laying the foundation for more visits by Congress and by other U.S. government agencies in the future. It could also mark a turning point in the U.S. government’s engagement with Somaliland and a growing American interest in the Horn region.
“Having the U.S. government present in Somaliland and engaged in issues around economic development, infrastructure and security will make it easier for CCF to put down protections for wild cheetahs where they exist on the landscape”, said Dr Marker. “By helping Somaliland and its people become more resilient, cheetahs will have a much better chance for survival as a species, and not just in Somaliland, but throughout the Horn of Africa”.
Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild. CCF has created a set of integrated programmes based on its research to address threats to the cheetah and its ecosystem. Founded in 1990, CCF is an international non-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia with a field base in Somaliland. CCF is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, making it the longest running and most successful cheetah conservation organisation. For more information, please visit www.cheetah.org
About Dr Laurie Marker
Dr Laurie Marker is a conservation biologist recognized as one of the world’s leading cheetah experts. She began working with cheetahs at Oregon’s Wildlife Safari in 1974, and in 1977 initiated pioneering in situ research in Namibia. Dr Marker’s early work helped identify the species’ lack of genetic diversity. In Namibia, she learned that livestock farmers were killing hundreds of cheetahs annually as a perceived threat, setting the stage for her career-long research into cheetah biology, ecology, and conservation strategies to mitigate conflict. Dr Marker earned her DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford. She is an A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and has published more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers and books on cheetah. Dr Marker’s awards include, Explorers Club President’s Award (2020); E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award (2015), Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), and TIME magazine’sHero for the Planet.
Susan Yannetti, Cheetah Conservation Fund; firstname.lastname@example.org or +12027167756