Illegal Pet Trade

Somaliland Government and Cheetah Conservation Fund Rescue Eight Cheetah Cubs Destined for Illegal Pet Trade in Three Successive Operations

  • by CCF Staff July 29, 2020
Two cubs in Borama await transport to CCF Safe House 24 July 2020.

HARGEISA, Somaliland (29 July 2020) –Working through COVID-19 conditions, the Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD), Selel Regional Administration and Somaliland Police Forces, with support from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and Torrid Analytics, rescued eight cheetah cubs during three consecutive missions in the Selel and Awdal regions (18-29 July). Seven of the cubs are estimated to be between 2.5 to 10-weeks-old, and the eighth cub is at least six months-old. Officials believe the seven younger cubs were taken from their mothers in the Horn of Africa in the western border regions of Ethiopia and Somaliland during July. The older cub was reportedly held in the care of a local community member for several months after a trafficker from another region failed to find a buyer. All eight were intended to be sold into the illegal pet trade.

“We are pleased to relay the details of three rescue missions successfully carried out by the Somaliland Ministry of Environment, the Somaliland Police Forces, Selel Regional Administration, Torrid and CCF over the past 10 days”, said Shukri H. Ismail, Minister of Environment and Rural Development. “By intercepting traffickers transiting through Somaliland and recovering the cubs, we send a clear message to people who think to try this illegal activity: don’t”.

The missions were launched by MoERD together with Somaliland Police Forces and respective regional administrations with support from CCF and Torrid. The first rescue began on Saturday, 18 July and lasted until late in the evening, Sunday, 19 July. Five cubs were intercepted from nomads who reportedly took possession of them following a predatory killing of a goat by the mother cheetah. The nomads agreed to hand over the animals to local authorities after being informed about the illegal nature of wildlife trade. The following day, MoERD and CCF traveled to the remote area to rescue the animals. CCF-trained veterinarian Dr Muse Saed Jama triaged all five cubs on scene and prepared them to make the long journey back to the CCF Safe House and veterinary clinic in Hargeisa.

During the second mission, a joint MoERD-CCF team traveled to the Awdal region on 24 July to rescue two cubs intercepted by Awdal Regional Police near Borama. Community members helped care for the cubs until the MoERD-CCF rescue team arrived. Once at the scene, the team was surprised to learn the cubs were reportedly in the hands of traffickers for 25 days. Despite being underweight and dehydrated, both were alert and energetic.

On the same day, 25 July, another successful rescue operation under the command of Selel Regional Police and Selel Regional Administration started in Xariirad. Selel Police Forces secured one cub from a local nomad and cared for the animal with support of local community until the MoERD-CCF rescue team arrived on 29 July. The rescue team was delayed for a day due to flash floods in the area.

“Our team coordinated very well with local authorities and community members to retrieve all eight cubs quickly. This gives them their best chances for survival. With so few cheetahs remaining in the Horn of Africa, each cub’s life is significant”, said Dr Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF. “Many people ask us if wildlife trafficking is still happening through COVID-19, and we know the answer is yes. We’ve become more aware of how coronaviruses can spread, which includes by wild animals moving across international borders, so we must stop people from taking animals from the landscape. For their health, and our health, too”.

Somaliland Government and its international partners have been working continuously through COVID-19 to disrupt illegal cheetah trade networks. These three rescue missions were not the first to be conducted since the pandemic began. In April, the MoERD-CCF Rescue Team went on a 1,000-kilometer round-trip to the Sool region to rescue two young cubs intercepted by the Somaliland military. Sadly, one cub died upon arrival at the CCF Safe House in Hargeisa. In sharp contrast, those cubs were in very poor health, with diarrhea and coccidiosis due to internal parasites and external parasites covering their bodies. Both were severely malnourished and dehydrated.

The team has higher hopes for these eight. In all three missions, the cubs received emergency care on scene, and they were immediately transported to the CCF facilities in Hargeisa for stabilization and assessment. Although separated from their mother at a critical stage in their development, CCF reports all cubs are eating well and fighting to survive. CCF-trained veterinarian Dr Muse Saed Jama provided professional animal care services in the first rescue mission to Xariirad, while CCF Veterinarian Dr Asma Bile cared for the cubs during the second and third rescue missions.  

“Our sincere gratitude to the community members in the Awdal and Selel Regions whose information and unwavering support made both missions last week successful”, said Abdinasir Hersi, Director General of MoERD.

With the intake of the eight small cubs from western Somaliland, the number of cheetahs under CCF care in Hargeisa rises to 41, a record-high for the project.

Five cubs rescued near Xariirad, Somaliland 19 July 2020. CCF uses a color-coding system to identify the cubs at this point, to match them with health and evidence files.
CCF-trained veterinarian Dr Muse Saed Jama examines one of five cubs intercepted near Xariirad, Somaliland, on 19 July 2020.
Five cubs awaiting rescue near Xariirad, Somaliland, 19 July 2020.
MoERD Wildlife Officer Abdinassir Hussein talks to community members who helped rescue the five cubs 19 July 2020.
Two cubs rescued near Borama 24 July 2020.
CCF Veterinarian Dr Asma Bile prepares the cubs to make the journey to Hargeisa.
Dr Bile administered fluids and recorded vital statistics like weight and body temperature on the scene.
Rugged area near Xariirad, Somaliland, where a six-month-old cub was recovered 29 July 2020.
Six-month-old cub in custody of MoERD and CCF enroute to Hargeisa 29 July 2020.
Five Cubs at CCF Safe House 22 July 2020
All eight cubs are under round-the-clock supervision of the CCF veterinary team in Hargeisa.

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Ministry of Environment and Development, Republic of Somaliland

The Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD) mandate is to conserve, protect and manage national development of natural resources and the environment for the benefit of Somaliland people. MoERD promotes the pastoral sector through sustainable development aimed at the eradication of poverty and improving living standards while ensuring that a protected and conserved environment will be available for future generations

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild. Founded in 1990, CCF is an international non-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia. CCF is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, making it the longest running and most successful cheetah conservation organisation. For more information on how you can help, please visit

Torrid Analytics

Torrid is a Somaliland-based company specialising in complex research in addition to facilitating critical capacity-building support for government and non-profit partners throughout the Horn of Africa.


Susan Yannetti, or +12027167756

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