FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 25, 2018) – Conservation biologist Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), today embarks on a five-week tour to educate people about threats to cheetah survival and the harms done by taking wild cheetahs as pets and selling them into the illegal pet trade. Despite these practices being outlawed in most parts of the world, they are still happening, and they are creating devastating consequences. Convincing people to act has been challenging.
“Cheetah Conservation Fund has been working to address the threat of cheetah trafficking since 2005. It has been a struggle to get people to recognize the issue as a threat, because until now, public discussion around illegal wildlife trade has involved elephants, rhinoceros, and tigers. Very few people are talking about the taking of live cheetahs for the pet trade. Smaller, fragmented cheetah populations in East Africa are being decimated by poaching, and cheetahs there are in danger of becoming locally extinct,” said Dr. Marker.
CCF research indicates an estimated 300 cheetah cubs are poached and 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. In areas of East Africa most affected by trafficking, the adult wild cheetah population is estimated at only 300 individuals, mainly in Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Five out of six cubs poached for the trade will not survive long enough ever to become a pet.
Dr. Marker traveled to Hargeisa, Somaliland, earlier this month – ground zero for cheetah traffickers — where she provided emergency care for extremely sick cubs confiscated from smugglers at a ‘safe house’ CCF maintains in the city.
“People see photos of wealthy people with pet cheetahs on social media and hyper-glamorized images in pop culture, like music videos that depict cheetahs as leashed pets wearing diamond studded collars and riding in luxury vehicles. What they are not seeing is what happens to the other five cubs that were poached at the same time. Their reality is far less glamourous. Most of them will likely die within three weeks due to dehydration and malnutrition. Even if they survive to three months, chances are great they will die within two years from the damaging effects caused by early lack of care and improper diet,” said Dr. Marker. “This month, a cub taken by smugglers died in my hands despite our best efforts to save it, and it was heartbreaking. The moment human hands separate these tiny, delicate creatures from their mothers, it is like a death sentence.”
Dr. Marker briefed zoo and conservation leaders at the Seattle at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums annual conference Monday, including members of the Cheetah Species Survival Plan. Today, Dr. Marker will attend the International Conservation Caucus Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C. before traveling to New York City to present at the premiere of Namibia: Land of the Cheetah, a one-hour Born to Explore with Richard Wiese television special about the work of CCF and Dr. Marker shot on location at the CCF Field Research & Education Centre in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. The first, national PBS broadcast is set for Friday, October 12, 2018.
Dr. Marker will give lectures in Portland; Palm Desert, Santa Barbara, Ojai, Santa Rosa and San Francisco, California; Columbus, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Dallas; Irving, Texas; Indianapolis; and Washington, D.C., with new cities possibly being added. Her speaking tour is set to run through the end of October.
CCF has been working to counter poaching and trafficking since 2005. In 2011, CCF began building a network in Somaliland and establishing working relationships with local government authorities. Since then, CCF has assisted with the confiscation, care and placement of 49 cheetahs. On 28 August, a landmark victory was achieved in Somaliland courts when two subjects charged with wildlife trafficking were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of U.S.$300 – the first successful conviction of cheetah traffickers in Somaliland.
“Not only does trafficking impact cheetahs, but the same people that smuggle cheetahs are the same ones who traffic humans, drugs and other wildlife products. We need to talk about how to stop the poachers and how to reduce demand for pet cheetahs, before even more harm is done,” said Dr. Marker. “Recognizing the live trade in cheetahs as a threat is the first step in solving this problem.”
About Dr. Laurie Marker
Dr. Laurie Marker is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on the cheetah. She earned her DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford’s WildCru and has published more than 100 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals encompassing cheetah genetics, biology, ecology, health and reproduction, human impact, and species survival. Dr. Marker is an A.D. White Professor-at-Large with Cornell University and she serves on Panthera’s Cat Advisory Council. She is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist (core) Group, as well as the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group and Veterinary Specialist Groups, and she chairs the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia. Dr. Marker has received many awards for her research contributions and conservation strategies, including the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award and the Ulysses S. Seal Award for Innovation in Conservation. Her work as been covered by TIME, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discover and The New York Times, and she has appeared on numerous television shows, including, CNN’s Inside Africa, The Tonight Show, Larry King Live, The Charlie Rose Show and Today.
Cheetah Conservation Fund
Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in the research and conservation of cheetahs. Founded in Namibia in 1990 by award-winning American zoologist Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF is dedicated to saving the species in the wild. CCF maintains a research program studying the biology, ecology and genetics of the cheetah and operates the only fully-equipped genetics lab at an in-situ conservation site in Africa. CCF has created a set of integrated programmes based on this research that address threats to the cheetah and its entire ecosystem, including human populations. CCF operates from the principal that only by securing the future of the communities that live alongside the cheetah can you secure a future for the species CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with operations in the United States and partner organizations in several other nations. For more information, please visit www.cheetah.org
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