HARGEISA, Somaliland (9 March 2023) – For the first time since they were only weeks-old, sibling cheetah cubs Cizi and Bagheer can peer across the landscape where they were born, their view unobstructed by 12-foot-high concrete walls. Cizi and Bagheer were rescued from wildlife traffickers by the Somaliland government in February 2020, destined to be sold into the illegal pet trade. After they were confiscated, the cubs were handed over to Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC) to be cared for by long-time partner, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). Until this week, Cizi and Bagheer had lived in one of three temporary facilities operated by CCF in Hargeisa, the Republic of Somaliland’s capital city, sharing space with 90 other big cats. But now, Cizi and Bagheer are among the 52 cubs resettled at CCF’s Somaliland Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre (CRCC) at Geed-Deeble.
The CRCC is being built by CCF to eventually provide a permanent home for 92 rescued cats with additional space for more if necessary, with large outdoor enclosures in a naturalistic environment. It is the first such facility dedicated to cheetahs caught up in illegal wildlife trade in the Horn of Africa. The CRCC is set on 800 hectares about an hour outside of Hargeisa at Geed-Deeble (‘Land of Trees’), and it will double as a wildlife research, education and training center. It is part of a 50,000-ha parcel decreed by the government to become Geed-Deeble National Park, Somaliland’s first National Park. The CRCC will eventually become an education and training center, and it stands as a living museum confirming the existence of the illegal cheetah pet trade. Each of the CRCC’s feline residents were confiscated by Somaliland government agencies from illegal wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict situations. After rescue, the big cats live under the watchful eye of CCF veterinarians and cheetah keepers.
CCF staff moved 52 cheetahs over the course of the past two weeks in small groups. Cizi and Bagheer were relocated by CCF staff on 7 March. As of today, CCF has relocated all the resident cats from Safe House 1 and 75-percent from Safe House 3. Now that the 52 cheetah cubs are safely ensconced at the CRCC, CCF must raise funds to build enclosures at Geed-Deeble for the 39 remaining big cats in its care in living in Safe House 2 and 3. This last group consists of 37 cheetahs, plus a leopard, Milo, and a caracal, Honey. The latter two cats were taken from the landscape by rural community members who mistakenly identified them as cheetah cubs.
“We are exceptionally pleased with the results of the move thus far. The cubs we moved stayed in their large management enclosures for a day or two to acclimate them to their new area. Then their keepers watched happily as they were released into their spacious enclosures,” said Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF. “They were initially excited by their new surroundings. They explored the termite mounds and trees and have since settled in very well.”
CCFs progress on the remaining enclosures has been challenged by shortages of construction materials and lack of technical staff to help manage the construction crews, as well as funds to complete the project. All the fencing has been shipped to Somaliland from South Africa, and the region’s crews are not experienced in building fences. By reducing the number of cats at the three Safe Houses in Hargeisa, some CCF staff will be free now to focus on the CRCC project at Geed-Deeble, and some of the building materials can be repurposed for the CRCC.
CCF, with partner MoECC, has been making tremendous inroads in the fight against cheetah trafficking over the past decade, both in Somaliland and the greater Horn of Africa region.
Building upon the success of confiscations, arrests, and community awareness campaigns from the past four years, CCF and MoECC are launching wild cheetah population research and conservation activities aimed at helping human communities. To increase in livelihood options, CCF is introducing its popular wildlife coexistence training for pastoralists, Future Farmers of Africa, for Somaliland communities where cheetah trafficking and human-wildlife conflict cases are concentrated. The goal is to eliminate cubs being removed from the landscape in the first place.
Cheetahs, listed as an Appendix 1 species under Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), are illegally removed from the wild in the Horn of Africa to supply the illegal pet trade. Since 2011, CCF has been assisting the government of Somaliland in caring for cheetahs intercepted from traffickers. In December 2021, CCF and MoECC began construction of the CCF Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre (CRCC) at Geed-Deeble to provide a more suitable and natural home for the animals. If you would like to donate to help build more enclosures at the CRCC to house the remaining cats, please visit https://cheetah.org/donate/ and designate your gift for the Somaliland cheetahs.
Caption: (L) The CRCC has vast enclosures built to international standards so the cubs can live in the most naturalistic environment possible on the Somaliland landscape. (R) A cheetah cub named Absame scans the horizon from her new CRCC home on 24 February 2023.
Caption: Cheetahs experiencing their new home at CCF’s Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre at Geed-Deeble (Above) Amaterasu (Below) Hasani
MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Yannetti, Cheetah Conservation Fund; email@example.com or +12027167756
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 will celebrate its 33rd anniversary in 2023, making it the longest running and most successful cheetah conservation organisation. For more information, please visit www.cheetah.org