The cheetah faces many threats to their survival including wildlife trafficking – every year about 300 cheetah cubs are smuggled out of the Horn of Africa into the Arabian Peninsula to be sold as pets. Out of every 6 cubs trafficked from the wild, 5 will die.
At the Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species Conference of the Parties (CITES CoP17) held in Johannesburg in September 2016, five important decisions were made about the future of the cheetah:
- To engage online and social media platform providers to prevent the advertisement of cheetahs for sale;
- To support enforcement in the identification of cheetahs and parts, as well as guidance on procedures after seizing illegally trafficked cheetahs;
- The development of a Cheetah Trade Resource Kit;
- The creation of a CITES Cheetah Forum for information sharing;
- A motion to improve enforcement, communications and collaboration amongst relevant countries and development of awareness campaigns to reduce demand.
So what progress has been made one year on from the CoP17 meeting?
In December 2016, a workshop was held in Ethiopia, attended by Horn of Africa governments and international NGOs, including the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) where the “Horn of Africa Cheetah Project” was established. Strategies (subject to funding) to end the illegal trade of cheetahs include:
- Research study to establish baselines for cheetah populations, extent of illegal trade and other project parameters;
- Law enforcement capacity building;
- Regional cooperation for handling of confiscated animals and deployment of enforcement assets against identified cross-border smuggling routes;
- Awareness and behavior change to reduce supply and demand, by involving communities;
- Improve capacity of confiscators to handle animals;
- Develop national chain of custody protocols.
In April 2017, the first strategic meeting was held with the Minister of Environment and Rural Development of Somaliland, other government officials, NGOs (including CCF) and key stakeholders. They will work together to raise awareness of the illegal trade in cheetahs, build capacity for enforcement and cheetah care, and develop a sanctuary for confiscated cheetahs on route from Ethiopia and Somalia to the Middle East.
The first phase of building the sanctuary is in motion, while small-scale awareness efforts have begun with the distribution of postcards around the capital city, media coverage of the meeting and positioning posters at check-points.
So the wheels are in motion, the plans are set and we are making huge strides to ensure the illegal pet cheetah trade is eradicated. There are fewer than 8,000 cheetah left in the wild and CCF is committed to securing a future where the cheetah not only survives, but thrives.