Cheetahs threatened by global warming and pet trade

Cheetah female with two small baby cheetahs all looking the same direction to the right standing in green grass
Mom and cheetah cubs, Kruger Park South Africa, photo: StuPorts via Canva

Less than 6,700 adult cheetahs are left in the world. The population keeps declining because the demand for cheetah cubs as pets is rising, and human-wildlife conflicts are becoming worse, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

A century ago, there were around 100,000 cheetahs in the wild, now less than ten percent is left. For the past four years, CCF and the government of Somaliland have been rescuing trafficked cheetah cubs in the region. An estimated 300 baby cheetahs are shipped every year through Somaliland for buyers in the Middle East.

”For every one cheetah that might make it into the pet trade, we see a loss of about four or five cubs en route,” Laurie Marker, the head of CCF, told news agency Reuters. And the ones that survive the journey to the Middle East, “probably won’t live to more than one or two years of age,” Marker added, “because the people who are buying them do not know how to take care of them.”

“The two cubs in the back are males. They are approximately five to six months old. They came in poor conditions. They were really dehydrated. They had diarrhea,” veterinarian at CCF, Anahi Gabriela Hidalgo Cordero, said about two rescued cubs, who were so lacking in the calcium, which they would normally get from their mother’s milk, that they had problems walking.

But the pet trade is not the only threat to the decreasing population. Marker explained that higher temperatures due to global warming mean less grazing land for animals of farmers. Farmers are already struggling, so when a cheetah eats one of their animals, they get angrier than before, Marker said.

”They [farmers] will go and track the mother down where the cubs would be, grab the cubs and then try to get money for those cubs to support the losses that they have,” she added.

Environmental Minister Shukri Ismail Haji Bandare said Somaliland is planning to open a national park where cheetahs and other wild animals can roam free.

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