Dozens Of Cheetahs Are Being Sold On Social Media Platforms Contributing To The Illegal Wildlife Trade; What Is Being Done To Stop It?
A recent analysis of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) research establishes that dozens of cheetahs are being advertised for sale every year on social media platforms.
The analysis, which covers the period between January 2012 and June 2018, aims to determine the extent to which the illegal cheetah trade exists online and to document the most relevant threats.
Cheetahs are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means trade in wild-born cheetahs is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. However, CCF data analysis shows that 1,367 documented cheetahs were offered for sale through 906 advertisments, which is approximately one-fifth (20%) of the world’s remaining wild cheetah population. Cheetahs are on a swift decline, dropping from an estimated 100,000 individuals a century ago to fewer than 7,500 today.
The most utilized platforms in 15 countries are Instagram, 4Sale (mobile app) and YouTube, with the Gulf Cooperation Council accounting for over 90% of the ads, and Saudi Arabia totaling more than 60% of those.
The analysis focused on the three top sellers, all of whom are based in Saudi Arabia and posted 20% of all advertisments. Of these sellers, one alone accounted for 12% of all ads analyzed, and was found to offer multiple species that include: lions, tigers, jaguars, wolves, gibbons, and chimpanzees.
“The illegal trade in live cheetahs impacts the smaller, fragmented populations in East Africa the most. Mitigating the threat requires a concerted effort by governments to not only confiscate the animals, but to embark on awareness campaigns to reduce demand for endangered species as pets,” Dr Laurie Marker, CCF Founder and Executive Director said in a statement. “Already vulnerable, cheetah populations, particularly those in Ethiopia and Somalia, are at risk of local extinction because of poaching for the illegal pet trade.”
CCF estimates put the number of smuggled cheetahs out of East Africa at 300 per year. Many more die before being shipped to the Middle East.
“CCF maintains a ‘safe house’ in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, where a team of animal keepers are caring for eleven confiscated cheetahs,” said Patricia Tricorache, CCF’s Assistant Director of Illegal Wildlife Trade. “Eight were confiscated within a three-week period, and two were just three-weeks-old when intercepted. One of the youngest died a few days after confiscation.”
CCF has been working on counter poaching and trafficking since 2005.
Since 2011, CCF has assisted the Somaliland government with the surrender or confiscation of 50 cheetahs. On August 28th, a landmark victory was achieved in local courts when two subjects charged with wildlife trafficking were sentenced to three years in prison and fined $300 USD and their vehicle seized; marking the first conviction for the illegal cheetah trade in Somaliland.