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Con­ser­va­tion­ists to CITES: Stop trade in wild Cheetahs

pub­lished 11 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 08 March 2014

Cheetahs runningThe Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS), Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL), and Endan­gered Wildlife Trust have joined rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda at the Con­ven­tion on Inter­na­tional Trade in Endan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), cur­rently meet­ing in Bangkok, to high­light the plight of wild chee­tahs threat­ened by the ille­gal pet trade.

The three African nations were spurred into action due to grow­ing con­cern for declin­ing east­ern Africa chee­tah pop­u­la­tions — cur­rently thought to be the source for smug­glers. The CITES Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties has on March 8 offi­cially accepted the pro­posal to com­mis­sion the first seri­ous study of the chee­tah trade that should form the basis for future con­ser­va­tion action.

Chee­tahs are declin­ing across much of their range and are now thought to num­ber less than 10,000 indi­vid­u­als. Any ille­gal trade in chee­tahs will exac­er­bate these declines.
Dr. Sarah Durant, ZSL’s Senior Research Fel­low »

Each year many chee­tahs are ille­gally taken from the wild. In 2011, the Chee­tah Con­ser­va­tion Fund (CCF) recorded 27 known cases involv­ing the traf­fick­ing of 70 chee­tahs within a 12-​month period, though con­ser­va­tion­ists believe total fig­ures are much higher.

Most of the known cases of smug­gled chee­tahs involve small cubs because they are eas­ier to han­dle and tame. More than half are believed to die in tran­sit, and sci­en­tists fear that the trade in live ani­mals could be impact­ing the sur­vival of the chee­tah pop­u­la­tions in the Horn of Africa.

Dr. Nick Mitchell of the WCS and the ZSL said: “Chee­tahs are already extinct in many coun­tries, and in east­ern Africa res­i­dent pop­u­la­tions are known to exist in just 6 per­cent of their esti­mated his­tor­i­cal range. Chee­tahs only occur at very low den­sity num­bers in the wild so the removal of indi­vid­ual ani­mals to sup­ply a demand for exotic pets could have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences for the sur­vival of those pop­u­la­tions.”

Aside from the ille­gal wildlife trade, chee­tahs face mul­ti­ple threats rang­ing from the loss of their habi­tat to per­se­cu­tion by farm­ers who fear their live­stock are in dan­ger. The con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of chee­tahs is classed as Vul­ner­a­ble under the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™.

Kelly Marnewick of the Endan­gered Wildlife Trust said: “Cur­rently the trade is known to affect many coun­tries across Africa but we don’t have a good under­stand­ing of the scale, the trade routes or the mode of oper­a­tion.”

(Source: WCS press release, 08.03.2013)

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