HARGEISA, Somaliland (28 October 2021) – A team from the Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD) including its Regional Coordinator from the Sool Region, Republic of Somaliland, in collaboration with Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), rescued eleven cheetah cubs taken from the wild in four separate incidents during September and October. The cubs were rounded up during a sweep of Sool and Saraar based on intelligence generated during a conference for Eastern Regions leadership held in Burao, Somaliland, 26-27 July. Eight of the cubs were rescued in Sool, while three were rescued in Saraar. And, as of today, there are potentially four more cubs in need of rescue being held captive in Sanaag, the vast neighbouring eastern region to the north.
MoERD wildlife officials believe the cubs were taken from the landscape in Somaliland and held by persons hoping to trade them for money, but MoERD intercepted the cubs before this could take place. The eleven cubs are estimated to have been between five to six-weeks-old at the time of confiscation. Given the condition of ten of the cubs, they do not appear to have been held for long. But a single male cub in much worse condition than the others appears to have been in the hands of his captor longer. Cubs taken from their mothers at this early age and held captive typically suffer severe impacts from malnutrition and dehydration, and many will perish. In two incidents, the persons holding the animals ran away, evading questioning. But in the case of the single cub, a male community member was arrested. According to information received by MoERD, the man also had two other cubs in his possession, reportedly siblings of the single cub, but they died before confiscation. MoERD and CCF have not been able to verify this claim.
“The Ministry is glad to be working in the eastern regions to raise awareness for the illegal nature of poaching of wildlife. We want to discourage others from taking cheetah cubs and other wild animals from our landscapes; it is against the law for any reason”, said Abdinassir Hussein, MoERD’s Wildlife Director.
Consultation conference on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Regions of Somaliland brought together leaders from Sahil, Toghdeer, Saraar, Sool, Sanaag, Daadmadhedh and Buhodle to discuss a variety of environmental issues, including charcoal production, establishment of new settlements and illegal private enclosures in the communal range land. CCF co-sponsored the conference, and Dr Laurie Marker, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director, travelled to Burao to speak. Dr Marker gave a presentation on the illegal nature of poaching, possessing and trading cheetah cubs and the detrimental impacts to the Somaliland landscape, the wild cheetah population and people. She also addressed the issue of human-wildlife conflict and the role it plays as a driver and root cause of illegal trade. Minister Shukri H. Ismail of MoERD spoke about the importance of communication and network building.
“We are exceptionally pleased by the collaboration between the local leaders of Sool with our Regional Coordinator and Ministry in Hargeisa during this operation, which led to its success. Our goal is to sustain this level of dialogue and cooperation on all environmental issues important to the eastern regions of Somaliland now and in the future”, said Minister Ismail, Somaliland’s Minister of Environment and Rural Development.
No information on human-wildlife conflict or livestock predation was collected during the sweep. However, in the case of four cubs confiscated in September, community members pointed to livestock predation as the primary motivation for taking them. Evidence CCF has gathered during other missions indicates conflict between pastoralists and predators is a key driver of offenses against wildlife in Somaliland’s rural areas. Future CCF interventions include animal husbandry training for livestock farmers and wildlife education for young learners, to support law enforcement and instil a cultural appreciation for Somaliland’s wild species.
MoERD’s Regional Coordinators and Wildlife Director Hussein recently participated in training held under the Legal Intelligence for Cheetah Illicit Trade (LICIT) project to increase Somaliland’s capacity to stop illegal trade in cheetahs and other wildlife. During a week-long training held in Hargeisa in September, the MoERD officers learned about intelligence gathering, how to conduct confiscations, proper handling of cubs, and the importance of establishing a chain of evidence from the field. This sweep enabled the officers to gain practical field experience using their new skills. LICIT is funded by the UK government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and implemented by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Legal Atlas.
“CCF commends the Ministry and its staff for its good field work and follow up finding these cubs. We are fortunate to have rescued them, giving them the best chances for survival. With so few cheetahs remaining in the wild, each is vitally important to the survival of the species, because we learn so much from them”, said Dr Laurie Marker, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director.
With the intake of the eleven young cubs from eastern Somaliland, the number of cheetahs CCF is caring for in its three Hargeisa-based Safe Houses rises to 65. CCF is developing a new centre for cheetahs on the outskirts of Hargeisa that is based on its Field Research & Education Centre in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. This new facility will be set on 800-ha adjacent to 50,000-ha the Somaliland government plans to develop as its first National Park. It will include large enclosures for cheetah in a natural habitat with conference facilities for programming. CCF intends to break ground on the CCF Somaliland Cheetah Rescue & Conservation Centre before the end of 2021.
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Ministry of Environment and Rural 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
Cheetah 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 www.cheetah.org
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