Information provided by Cheetah Conservation Fund
HARGEISA, Somaliland (29 July 2020) –Working through COVID-19 conditions, the Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD), Selel Regional Administration and Somaliland Police Forces, with support from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and Torrid Analytics, rescued eight cheetah cubs during three consecutive missions in the Selel and Awdal regions (18-29 July). Seven of the cubs are estimated to be between 2.5 to 10-weeks-old, and the eighth cub is at least six-months-old. Officials believe the seven younger cubs were taken from their mothers in the Horn of Africa in the western border regions of Ethiopia and Somaliland during July. The older cub was reportedly held in the care of a local community member for several months after a trafficker from another region failed to find a buyer. All eight were intended to be sold into the illegal pet trade.
“We are pleased to relay the details of three rescue missions successfully carried out over the past ten days”, said Shukri H. Ismail, Minister of Environment and Rural Development. “By intercepting traffickers transiting through Somaliland and recovering the cubs, we send a clear message to people who think to try this illegal activity: don’t”.
The missions were launched by MoERD together with Somaliland Police Forces and respective regional administrations with support from CCF and Torrid. The first rescue began on Saturday, 18 July and lasted until late in the evening, Sunday, 19 July. Five cubs were intercepted from nomads who reportedly took possession of them following a predatory killing of a goat by the mother cheetah. The nomads agreed to hand over the animals to local authorities after being informed about the illegal nature of wildlife trade. The following day, MoERD and CCF travelled to the remote area to rescue the animals. CCF-trained veterinarian Dr Muse Saed Jama triaged all five cubs on the scene and prepared them to make the long journey back to the CCF Safe House and veterinary clinic in Hargeisa.
Five cheetah cubs found in a rock culvert in Haridad, Somaliland – 19 July 2020
During the second mission, a joint MoERD-CCF team travelled to the Awdal region on 24 July to rescue two cubs intercepted by Awdal Regional Police near Borama. Community members helped care for the cubs until the MoERD-CCF rescue team arrived. Once at the scene, the team was surprised to learn the cubs were reportedly in the hands of traffickers for 25 days. Despite being underweight and dehydrated, both were alert and energetic.
On the same day, 25 July, another successful rescue operation under the command of Selel Regional Police and Selel Regional Administration started in Xariirad. Selel Police Forces secured one cub from a local nomad and cared for the animal with support of the local community until the MoERD-CCF rescue team arrived on 29 July. The rescue team was delayed for a day due to flash floods in the area.
“Our team coordinated very well with local authorities and community members to retrieve all eight cubs quickly. This gives them their best chances for survival. With so few cheetahs remaining in the Horn of Africa, each cub’s life is significant”, said Dr Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF. “Many people ask us if wildlife trafficking is still happening through COVID-19, and we know the answer is yes. We’ve become more aware of how coronaviruses can spread, which includes by wild animals moving across international borders, so we must stop people from taking animals from the landscape. For their health, and our health, too”.
Somaliland Government and its international partners have been working continuously through COVID-19 to disrupt illegal cheetah trade networks. These three rescue missions were not the first to be conducted since the pandemic began. In April, the MoERD-CCF Rescue Team went on a 1,000-kilometer round-trip to the Sool region to rescue two young cubs intercepted by the Somaliland military. Sadly, one cub died upon arrival at the CCF Safe House in Hargeisa. In sharp contrast, those cubs were in very poor health, with diarrhoea and coccidiosis due to internal parasites and external parasites covering their bodies. Both were severely malnourished and dehydrated.
The team has higher hopes for these eight. In all three missions, the cheetah cubs rescued received emergency care on the scene, and they were immediately transported to the CCF facilities in Hargeisa for stabilization and assessment. Although separated from their mother at a critical stage in their development, CCF reports all cubs are eating well and fighting to survive. CCF-trained veterinarian, Dr Muse Saed Jama, provided professional animal care services in the first rescue mission to Xariirad, while CCF Veterinarian Dr Asma Bile cared for the cubs during the second and third rescue missions.
“Our sincere gratitude to the community members in the Awdal and Selel Regions whose information and unwavering support made both missions last week successful”, said Abdinasir Hersi, Director General of MoERD.
With the intake of these eight small cubs from western Somaliland, the number of cheetah cubs rescued and under CCF care in Hargeisa rises to 41, a record-high for the project