CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND WINS GRANT FROM UK’S ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE FUND TO ADDRESS CHEETAH TRAFFICKING IN HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF ADEN REGION
Otjiwarongo, Namibia (June 7, 2019) – Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) today announced that UK’s Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will fund its project to fight cheetah trafficking in the Horn of Africa and Middle East. Through a grant administered by the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, the project, known by the acronym LICIT – Legal Intelligence for Cheetah Illicit Trade — will increase awareness of wildlife laws along trade routes in Ethiopia, Somaliland, Somalia and Yemen and close enforcement and legal loopholes exploited by poachers. The goal is to build capacity in the chain of enforcement in each of the countries and create networks of key regional players using increased knowledge of more effective laws to foster public/private collaboration to reduce trafficking of cheetahs and other wildlife between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
CCF has been working on the illegal trade threat in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula since 2005 and has formed strong partnerships over the years. For LICIT, CCF has joined forces with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Legal Atlas. To address an incomplete understanding of existing laws by enforcers, prosecutors, judges and community leaders that often hinders enforcement, Legal Atlas will perform an analysis of national laws, identify gaps and shortfalls and make recommendations to strengthen current legislation. Through Training-of-Trainers workshops for cheetah stakeholders, the three partners will build capacity within the chain of enforcement, from confiscation through prosecution. CCF will implement LICIT trainings and workshops in Ethiopia and Somaliland with stakeholders from Somalia, Somaliland, Yemen, and Ethiopia.
“CCF and its partners in this project are very pleased to have the support of DEFRA’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and we are looking forward to launching the LICIT project for cheetah on July 1,” said Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF Founder and Executive Director.
LICIT will emphasize the involvement of communities in the protection of local wildlife resources. Local stakeholders will be trained to better appreciate, protect, and sustainably manage these resources. Women and religious leaders will be encouraged to attend, participate, and share their learning with fellow community members, contributing to project sustainability.
Illegal Cheetah Pet Trade: From the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula
CCF research indicates an estimated 300 cheetahs are smuggled into the Arabian Peninsula each year to be sold in the illegal pet trade, most coming in through Yemen from the Horn of Africa. Many more are poached from the wild but die while being trafficked. For a species with low populations numbers to begin with, losses to trafficking threaten the cheetah’s very existence. Based on surveys across their African range, fewer than 7,100 cheetahs are estimated to remain in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago. This swift decline puts cheetahs at great risk for extinction. As 80% of wild cheetahs live outside protected areas, this puts them in closer contact with humans, which exacerbates conflict and makes them easier targets for poaching.
In areas of the Horn of Africa that are most affected by poaching, the adolescent and adult wild cheetah population is estimated at only 300 individuals, mainly in Ethiopia and northern Kenya (data on cheetah populations in Somalia and Somaliland is not available). Once removed from their mothers at such young ages, poached cubs cannot be returned to the wild because they did not learn survival skills from their mother. Trafficked cubs usually do not survive longer than three months due to disease and improper nutrition. If they do, most die within two years for the same reason.
Evidence indicates that Somaliland, which has been a self-declared autonomous region of Somalia since 1991, has become the main transit route for cheetahs trafficked out of East Africa. However, as Somaliland is not recognized as an independent nation, it is not a Party to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which complicates international recognition and response to the illegal wildlife trade occurring there.
Why would people want to poach cheetah cubs? Wild animals are in high demand as status pets in the Gulf Cooperation Council States. it is estimated that close to 1,000 cheetahs might have been kept in houses and compounds in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar at different times, each costing thousands of dollars, with few surviving to adulthood. Evidence suggests that most of these cheetahs have been illegally sourced from nations in the Horn of Africa. While CCF does not condone keeping cheetahs as pets, it has visited the UAE several times to raise awareness and organize workshops for veterinarians and trainings for accredited zoo staff in proper cheetah care. In December 2016, the UAE enacted a law outlawing the private ownership of exotic and dangerous pets. While this has helped curb some demand from this country, cheetahs continue to be taken from the landscape at an alarming rate.
“Cheetah cubs are often stolen from the den while the mother is out hunting, and in other cases, the mother is killed, either in retaliation for preying upon livestock or simply so people can sell her cubs,” said Dr. Marker. “These practices are not sustainable, and the illegal wildlife trade is threatening the East African cheetah populations with local extirpation.”
Cheetah Conservation Fund and Illegal Wildlife Trade
Since 2005, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) began tracking incidents of cheetah trafficking and assisting authorities with confiscations whenever possible. To date, CCF has recorded hundreds of incidents involving more than 1,500 cheetahs or cheetah parts. Of these, less than 20% are known to have survived, while more than 35% were confirmed dead. Most of the trade in live cheetahs occurs between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where cheetahs are popular pets across the Gulf States. Trafficked cheetahs are believed to originate in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland, and most are smuggled from points along the Somaliland coast.
CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom, and partner organizations in several other nations. Founded in Namibia in 1990, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild. CCF’s mission is to be the internationally recognized center of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems, working with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species, including humans. For more information, please visit www.cheetah.org.
Susan Yannetti, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.716.7756