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Somaliland rescues cheetah cubs from illegal wildlife trade

Xinhua, April 24, 2017 Adjust font size:

Authorities in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Somaliland have rescued nine cheetah cubs and one sub-adult from illegal wildlife traders with assistance from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

The conservation group, CCF, said the curbs, found in El Sheik and Wajel last week, were destined for the Arabian Peninsula, where the illegal market for pet cheetahs is estimated at 300 animals per year.

"The three youngest cubs were found in extremely poor health, and every effort is being made to save them," CCF said in a statement.

"In a separate incident on the same day, CCF learned that three older cheetahs had reportedly escaped from a trafficker in the Wajale area bordering Ethiopia and entered the town," the organization said.

It said two of the animals were captured by the police while the third was still loose.

"CCF recovered one of the cheetahs and is in negotiations to recover the second. A search for the third one is underway," said the organization.

CCF has partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to ensure the cubs are given urgent medical care, food, and appropriate emergency housing.

CCF and IFAW began collaborating on combating illegal cheetah trade in 2014 in the context of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

IFAW's Wildlife Rescue Manager Gail A'Brunzo said CCF needed critical supplies if the cubs were to survive and IFAW was pleased to offer immediate assistance.

"Wild cheetah populations are in dire trouble, largely due to demand for cubs as exotic pets. The cruelty of live animal trade is shocking and we are doing all we can to save these cubs," said A'Brunzo.

The Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD) showed great leadership in acting swiftly against these cheetah traffickers, CCF said.

CCF and IFAW are engaged in discussions with the ministry on how to provide long-term care for the confiscated cheetahs, which cannot be transferred to sanctuaries in nearby countries as current laws do not allow for confiscated animals to be transported across borders.

CCF Founder and Executive Director Laurie Marker said with a total population of just over 7,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild, the taking of even one cub is a threat to the species' survival.

"This is particularly concerning as trafficked cubs are usually removed from their mothers at very young ages -- less than 3 months -- which means that they have not had enough time to learn skills necessary to survive in the wild and will in most cases require life-long care," said Marker.

"Through this week's confiscations, the Somaliland authorities are sending a clear message to traffickers that the trade in live cheetahs will not be tolerated," said CCF Assistant Director for Strategic Communications and Illegal Wildlife Trade Patricia Tricorache. Endit