The ever increasing illegal pet cheetah trade is thriving because of wealthy owners flashing their ‘exotic’ pets on social media.
For centuries, kings and emperors would own cheetahs as a household pets. Owning the endangered feline is considered a sign of luxury in Gulf States consequently leading to this social media craze for the pet cheetah even today. Looking at Instagram feeds of wealthy heirs there is no shortage of pet cheetahs pictured inside their mansions and sports cars.
Instagram user and Kuwaiti hunter Saudhunter describes himself as ‘king of the jungle’ and with 441k followers it is worrying to see how receptive social media users are to the lure of extravagant animals provided by illegal trade. Numerous accounts exist on the site, each showing the same lack of respect for a threatened and endangered species.
The cheetah is renowned for being the fastest land animal in the world and live in homes that can range up to 800 square km in the wild. These pet cheetahs are often kept in cramped conditions – that is, if they are part of 85% of cubs that actually survive being trafficked for illegal trade.
Majestic, lean and muscular. Fewer than 7000 of these rare creatures now remain in the wild, with investigators estimating that 250 cubs are stolen from their mothers each year to be traded when they may only be four to six weeks old. In 2015, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature advanced the cheetah’s status to vulnerable, describing illegal trade as its greatest threat of extinction.
Fortunately, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took notice of the social media trend and the risk it poses to the depleting cheetah population. 181 nations met at the CITES conference to agree on new measures to protect the cheetah from this social media craze.
It was agreed that;
- Greater co-operation between states with wild cheetahs and consumer states should exist
- Greater public awareness of the illegal pet cheetah trade
- A collaborative approach to addressing social media in fuelling the pet cheetah trade
The United Arab Emirates are already striving to enact new legislation which is expected to considerably reduce the appeal to own a pet cheetah. Alongside this, efforts to tackle social media advertising of the illegal cheetah trade. The biggest appeal is presented to individuals in the Gulf States to be aware of the new legislation and respect the rights of those animals. The process will be difficult, but strong steps in the right direction have been made to protect this beautiful creature.
Go to cheetah.org to follow the Cheetah Conservation Fund news and updates
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