It doesn’t take rocket science to know that cheetahs most definitely do not make good pets. However, for some people with money burning a hole in their pocket, it’s well worth the risk of extinction.
A new report from CNN has found that some 300 cheetahs are being trafficked out of Somaliland, a breakaway state from Somalia, every year. According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), that’s equivalent to “the entire population of adult and adolescent cheetahs in unprotected areas in the Horn of Africa.”
“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,” CCF founder and conservation biologist Laurie Marker told CNN.
Apparently, the animals are being smuggled across the border and stowed away on boats headed towards the Arabian Peninsula to become pets for the rich. According to the CCF, “only one in six cubs survives the journey to buyers.”
The CCF states that cheetahs have been seen as ‘status symbols’ since Ancient Egyptian times. Today, it’s illegal to remove wild animals like cheetahs from the wild, but that hasn’t stopped an illegal trade estimated to be worth billions.
Apart from the obvious risks associated with owning a pet cheetah, like being mauled to death by one, they are extremely difficult to care for. CNN reports that “as the world’s fastest land mammal, cheetahs need space to run and a special diet.”
“Most Gulf owners do not know how to care for the cats, and the majority of captive cheetahs die within a year or two,” experts told CNN.
After being questioned by CNN, the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment “denied there were pet cheetahs in the country’s private houses” but dozens of disturbing social media posts featuring the animal beg to differ.
People are even selling their pet cheetahs via platforms like Instagram and YouTube. A CCF study found 1,367 cheetahs for sale on social media between January 2012 and January 2018, primarily from Arab Gulf States.
CCF is attempting to end the illegal pet trade by facilitating confiscations, and by working with NGOs to address “issues such as law enforcement, demand reduction, procedures for the placement of confiscated cheetahs, and cyber-crime.”
Marker told CNN, “we really need influencers, we need the governments, the kings, the princes, or the queens to actually say this is not right.”
“If we can save them, we are going to give them the best life that they can have, but they shouldn’t be in our care. They should be in the wild.”
You can help by reporting illegal activities involving pet cheetahs or cheetah products to the CCF, by spreading the word and engaging in responsible tourism.