BANGKOK, THAILAND (March 8, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London, and Endangered Wildlife Trust have joined representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), currently meeting in Bangkok, to highlight the plight of wild cheetahs threatened by the illegal pet trade.
The three African nations were spurred into action due to growing concern for declining eastern Africa cheetah populations - currently thought to be the source for smugglers. The CITES Conference of the Parties has today officially accepted the proposal to commission the first serious study of the cheetah trade that should form the basis for future conservation action.
Each year many cheetahs are illegally taken from the wild. In 2011, the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) recorded 27 known cases involving the trafficking of 70 cheetahs within a 12-month period, though conservationists believe total figures are much higher.
Most of the known cases of smuggled cheetahs involve small cubs because they are easier to handle and tame. More than half are believed to die in transit, and scientists fear that the trade in live animals could be impacting the survival of the cheetah populations in the Horn of Africa.
Dr. Nick Mitchell of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and said: "Cheetahs are already extinct in many countries, and in eastern Africa resident populations are known to exist in just 6 percent of their estimated historical range. Cheetahs only occur at very low density numbers in the wild so the removal of individual animals to supply a demand for exotic pets could have significant consequences for the survival of those populations."
Aside from the illegal wildlife trade, cheetahs face multiple threats ranging from the loss of their habitat to persecution by farmers who fear their livestock are in danger. The conservation status of cheetahs is classed as Vulnerable under the Red List of Threatened Species.
ZSL's Senior Research Fellow Dr. Sarah Durant said: "Cheetahs are declining across much of their range and are now thought to number less than 10,000 individuals. Any illegal trade in cheetahs will exacerbate these declines."
Kelly Marnewick of the Endangered Wildlife Trust said: "Currently the trade is known to affect many countries across Africa but we don't have a good understanding of the scale, the trade routes or the mode of operation."
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit http://www.wcs.org.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our groundbreaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information visit http://www.zsl.org
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is dedicated to conserving threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa to the benefit of all people. Our Vision is a healthy planet and an equitable world that values and sustains diversity of all life. The EWT was established in 1973 and is registered as a Non-Profit Organisation. The EWT fills the key niche of on the ground conservation action. We identify the key factors threatening biodiversity and develop innovative methodologies and best practice guidelines to reduce these and promote harmonious co-existence and sustainable living for both people and wildlife. We achieve our goals through specialist programmes, and our skilled field staff are deployed regionally and throughout southern Africa. The EWT is a proud member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Global Compact. Visit http://www.ewt.org.za for further information.
The IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group is responsible for the global assessment of the conservation status of all 37 wild living cat species. It coordinates and supports the activities of some 200 leading scientists, nature conservation officers and wild life managers in currently 57 countries. Its main tasks include the continuous assessment of the status and conservation needs of all felid species, the support of governments with strategic conservation planning, the development of capacity in felid conservation and the provision of services to members and partners.
The Range Wide Program for Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs (RWP) was initiated in 2007 in recognition of the fact that cheetahs and African wild dogs require large areas of land to sustain viable populations, and that both species were declining or extinct in much of their former range. To maintain such large areas there was a need to engage with stakeholders beyond traditional wildlife areas and to work with governments to find ways to protect these two species outside of gazetted wildlife estates. There are three regions under the RWP – North, West and Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa each managed by a regional coordinator.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.