Owning an exotic pet is a new illegal fashion for the ultra-rich, and Cheetahs has become a status symbol for their rich owners.
Somaliland, a breakaway state from Somalia recently became notorious on the subject of trafficking cheetahs.
According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) every year, the smugglers are trading over 300 young cheetahs out of Somaliland. At this rate of trafficking there is a threat the cheetah population could be shortly wiped out in this region.
The main transit route for young cubs leads across Somaliland’s leaky border, through the Gulf of Aden towards their final destination: The Arabian Peninsula.
Somaliland is one of the least developed countries in the world. Poverty is forcing people to involve in this prohibited and highly profitable trade. But its government says that in the last couple of years had prioritized cracking down on wildlife traffickers.
CCF’s made a shelter in Somaliland where they take care of the saved orphaned cheetahs. Professionals and volunteers from all over the world are rushing to make a bigger shelter. The final goal is releasing cheetahs into a wildlife sanctuary.
Built for speed not for sale
Private ownership and sale is illegal in countries like United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, however it seems that enforcement of this law is lax. Rich illegal owners are bragging across the social media with pictures and videos of captivated cheetahs. Owning an exotic pet is a new illegal fashion for the ultra-rich, and Cheetahs has become a status symbol for their rich owners.
They are showing their “pets” sitting in their luxurious cars, pushed into their luxurious swimming pools, chained in their luxurious mansions force-feeding them with lollipops and ice-cream…
But, a life in imprisonment is deadly for cheetahs. No matter how luxurious it is. Of course if they survive the journey first. Many of the trafficked cubs are arriving with broken and infected legs as a result of a rough journey. According to CFF, three out of four cubs die during the transport.
Cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal. They are built for speed and need space to run, as well as a special nourishment. Most of the ultra-rich owners have no idea how to care for them, and as a result majority of locked up cheetahs die within a year or two.
During January 2012 and June 2018, a CCF study documented 1,367 cheetahs for sale on social media, largely from Arab Gulf states.
Most of those transactions were conducted on You Tube and Instagram. They have recorded advertisements for those sales in 15 countries, from which more than 90% originated in Gulf nations and 60% of those in Saudi Arabia.
A simple google search will reveal an online Saudi marketplace offering cars, luxurious mobile phones and cheetahs! A Riyadh-based cheetah seller was also selling lions.
A profitable illegal business
Trading cheetahs is illegal under Appendix 1 of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). However, wildlife trade is a big lucrative business.
According to Interpol and UN, wildlife trafficking is worth up to $20 billion per year, and is amid the top five criminal industries worldwide, along with human trafficking and drugs.
Prohibited wildlife animal trade used to predominantly take place on Instagram and Facebook. In recent years, according to Crawford Allan, a wildlife trafficking expert with TRAFFIC at the World Wildlife Fund, Facebook has doubled their efforts on finding abusers.
In a written statement, a FB spokesperson stated:
“Our Community Standards do not allow for the sale of endangered species or their parts, and we remove this material as soon as we are aware of it”
They rely mostly on automated algorithms to detect prohibited content, but they also have more than 5,000 manual reviewers. However, they are dealing not only with wildlife trafficking, but also with other types of prohibited content like child abuse and terrorism
Facebook is among a number of social media platforms that joined WWF’s initiative to end on-line wildlife trafficking. WWF’s is pledging to reduce online wildlife trafficking by 80% by 2020.
As a result of this battle, in a period of 2 years, eBay removed more than 100,000 illegitimate wildlife ads from their platform. This is a good start. However, criminals are also adjusting to changing surveillance systems on the internet. So, the battle continues.
Will this new illegal fashion of the ultra-rich make the world’s fastest land mammal extinct? Leave your comment in the section below.