Cheetahs for sale: delving into the hell of the wildlife trade

A fisherman who has worked on the coast for thirty years says he has witnessed all kinds of smuggling outside Lugae: people, fuel, precious stones, cheetahs, leopards, lions, gazelles.

He says he first witnessed the cheetah trade in Lugae around 2005 and saw the town become a hub, with activity peaking around 2013. Back then, he saw babies being smuggled out at least once a month, sometimes once a week. The outbreak of war in Yemen in 2014 and the Saudi blockade of its coastline, followed by the Somaliland government’s crackdown on cheetah smuggling, slowed the trade for a while, he said.

The fisherman recalls meeting Kabdi Shayawan when his car broke down once in 2014. “You depend on the sea to feed you, and I depend on the little ones,” Kabdi Shayawaan told him. So don’t interfere. Then he gave her some money.

In Hargeisa, in the cold of the concrete walls of the court, the prosecutor repeatedly returns to the evidence contained in Kabdi Shayavan’s phone, in particular to the messages between him and the Yemenis. One day, according to bank statements cited by the prosecutor, they sent him nearly $4,000. Shortly thereafter, the defendant received photographs and videos of the cheetah cubs.

No one knows where the animals are now—whether they are among the ten brought home by Gulid and later rescued, put on a boat bound for Yemen and live in a private zoo, or dead. Most of the captured young cheetahs are fed only goat’s milk and meat, and it is likely that many of them will die of malnutrition and others of disease.

The routes used by smugglers to transport cheetahs from Yemen to the Persian Gulf are unknown, but Trikorash said many are likely to be taken through Yemen to Saudi Arabia. From there, they are distributed to buyers located in the Kingdom, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

Laws regarding wildlife as pets in these countries can be difficult to decipher. The United Arab Emirates, for example, banned private ownership of “dangerous” animals such as cheetahs in 2016. Some people have returned their cats, but five years later, many Emiratis still own them, according to the report. A study conducted on Instagram.

Some appear to be taking advantage of a loophole in the law that exempts research centers, zoos and zoos from the ban, including private zoos such as those owned by the ultra-rich. The UAE’s environment ministry says it has set strict standards for zoo licensing and is working with local authorities to “develop a coordinated and rapid response to cases of illegal possession”. Penalties include up to six months in prison and a $136,000 fine.

In Kuwait, several cheetah owners declined to speak to National Geographic for fear of running afoul of the law, although they publicly share photos of their cheetahs on their Instagram accounts.

Regardless of what these photos show, cheetahs were not domesticated. Domestic animals such as cats, dogs, sheep or horses come from generations of selective breeding for companionship, food or work.

But cheetahs don’t breed easily in captivity, says Adrienne Crozier, a biologist who directs the cheetah breeding program at the Smithsonian Institution for Conservation Biology in Virginia. The irregular breeding cycles and fragility of cheetah cubs make keeping them more of an art than a science, she says, adding that most domesticated cheetahs “were taken from the wild.”

Cabdi Xayawaan is currently in prison, but it is not known for how long. Last spring, a few months after the legal deadline for him to appeal the sentence expired, his case was reopened for unclear reasons. Around the same time, Gulid, who had paid a fine and served only part of his one-year sentence, died at his home in Hargeisa shortly after his release, the environment ministry said.

If Kabdi Shayawan’s conviction is overturned, one of Somaliland’s biggest victories against the cheetah trade will end – like so many other wildlife crimes – quietly and quietly with real consequences.

By the end of June this year, at least one hundred and fifty Cheetahs were put up for sale.


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