Three young female cheetahs, captured in the wild and destined to be sold as exotic pets, have been rescued by Born Free Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. The cats are now safe at the Born Free Foundation’s Wildlife Rescue Centre in Ethiopia.
The cubs were confiscated at a remote site in Somaliland, taken from illegal traders. The cats are definitely the lucky ones. Upward of 300 cheetahs are taken in the wild every year. Many die in captivity before they can be sold.
The cheetahs first were placed with Guenther Wirth of German Agro Action, a non-governmental organization. Over the years Wirth has taken charge of many confiscated animals in Somaliland, returning them to health before their relocation to Ensessakotteh, Born Free’s Rescue Centre west of Addis Ababa.
The cheetahs’ recent arrival at Ensessakotteh coincided with the official opening of a new onsite visitor and education center, known as The Treehouse, which will enable the team at Ensessakotteh to educate thousands of school children and visitors on the importance of conversation and care for endangered animals such as the rescued cubs
The facility currently cares for 11 cheetahs as well as rescued lions, primates, birds of prey and many other species.
Dr. Zelealem Tefera, Born Free Ethiopia country representative, helped organize the cheetahs’ handover at the Ethiopia-Somaliland border. He called the illegal trade in cheetah “nothing short of alarming.”
“East Africa is being stripped of their fragile population to line the traders’ pockets and supply the irrational demand for exotic pets in the Middle East,” Tefera said in a statement. “This is illegal, unsustainable and cruel. It has to stop.”
Adam M. Roberts, CEO of the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, said the organizations are “clamping down on this barbaric trade in vulnerable wild animals.”
A beautiful cheetah, saved from the illegal animal trade. (Born Free Foundation)
“Cheetah cubs are snatched at a very young age from the wild, with up to 70 percent of these cubs found dead during confiscations,” Roberts said. “Recruitment back to the wild population is therefore virtually obliterated and this will ultimately result in the eventual extinction of cheetah from the Horn of Africa. I am proud that the Born Free Ethiopia team is leading the way in tackling the illegal trade head-on.”
Born Free and Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority are about to launch the Border Point Project, having secured three years of funding from Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund. Headed by Fetene Hailu, the project will tackle illegal trade at key border point crossings in and out of Ethiopia.
“Born Free has just taken in three cheetah,” Hailu said. “While we could say these are the lucky ones – what does their confiscation and rescue really reflect? That others have died along the way and their removal may well mean the poachers are out there now looking for replacements to supply the demand. While all aspects of trade must be tackled, the Border Point Project will be vital in closing down the trade routes from Ethiopia. We must make trade non-viable for the people who snatch these animals and try to take them over our borders.”
I’m the Pets & Wildlife columnist for the Bay Area News Group. I’ve also been a professional journalist since 1978.