24 Sep 2019,Updated: 24 Sep 2019,
CHEETAHS face extinction within two years because smugglers are selling up to three quarters of wild cubs to wealthy Arabs as pets.
A wildlife conservation charity claims around 300 young cheetahs are trafficked out of Somaliland in East Africa each year.
Laurie Marker, conservation biologist and founder of CCF, told CNN: “If you do the math, the math kind of shows that it’s only going to be a matter of a couple of years [before] we are not going to have any cheetahs.”
Many smugglers traffick the cubs across Somaliland’s border as the main transit route for cheetah-trafficking in the Horn of Africa.
The animals are then stowed away in cramped crates or cardboard boxes on boats and sent across the Gulf of Aden towards the Arabian Peninsula.
There are less than 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild with another 1,000 being held captive in private hands in Gulf countries, according to the organisation.
“Those people who have cheetahs as a pet are causing the species to go extinct.” Dr Laurie Marker
Many of the animals are bought and sold in illegal online sales through Youtube and Instagram.
More than 90 per cent of sales were found to have originated in Gulf nations – with 60 per cent of those in Saudi Arabia.
Most cubs end up in the hands of wealthy Arabs, living in Gulf Arab mansions where they are flaunted as status symbols and paraded around in social media posts.
However, life in confinement can be deadly and the journey to get them there can also be fatal.
Many of the smuggled cubs arrive in the Gulf with mangled and broken legs and Marker estimates three out of four die during the trip.
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal and need space to run and a special diet.
Most Gulf owners do not know how to care for their new “pets” and the majority of captive cheetahs die within a year or two, experts told CNN.
Veterinarians in Gulf countries also confirmed cheetahs suffered from metabolic and digestive disorders because they were not fed properly.
One vet said captivity is “a dead-end for cheetahs”
Dr Marker maintained: “Those people who have cheetahs as a pet are causing the species to go extinct.”
Social media posts show cheetahs laying on luxury cars, prowling around luxury mansions and being shoved into pools.
Others are force-fed ice cream and lollipops, while some are taunted by their owners.
One cheetah is filmed dying on camera.
In one post, a video shows a “pet” cheetah watching a National Geographic show and becoming visibly agitated when it sees a cheetah on screen.
“She’s fixated on her family,” reads the caption.
In a statement to CNN, the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment denied there were cheetahs in the country’s private houses and said that any cheetahs in the country were in “licensed facilities.”
Trading cheetahs is prohibited under Appendix 1 of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species.
But wildlife trade is a big business and shows no sign of stopping.