Illegal Pet Trade

Four rescue missions in eastern Somaliland, rescuing 11 cubs

  • by Hannah Mulvany 3 November 2021

Our great run of no cheetah cub confiscations came to an unwelcome, abrupt end after our team and the Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD) rescued eleven cheetah cubs in four separate rescue missions between 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 from 26-27 July. Eight of the cubs were rescued in Sool, while three were rescued in Saraar. 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 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.

MoERD’s 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. 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 wildlife trade, 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 cause of illegal wildlife trade. Minister Shukri H. Ismail of MoERD spoke about the importance of communication and network building.

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.

“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 these eleven young cubs, 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.

Donate to CCF UK to support our new Somaliland cheetah centre.

Sponsor our resident cheetahs to help us give them the best possible care.

Support our current #UnitingforCheetahs campaign, which aims to stop human-wildlife conflict.

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