Conservationists: ban the wild cheetah pet trade

March 08, 2013

A group of prominent wildlife conservation groups have joined an alliance of African states in calling on CITES to ban the trade in wild cheetah for the pet trade.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and Endangered Wildlife Trust have joined delegates from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda in demanding action. CITES has now officially accepted a proposal to commission a study on the trade.

While only a limited number of wild cheetah are thought to be trafficked every year, their population is rapidly declining in several range countries due to habitat loss and killing by farmers and ranchers. Therefore any removal of healthy cheetah from the wild represents a risk, according to Nick Mitchell of WCS and ZSL.

"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," Mitchell said in a statement. "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."

"Cheetahs are declining across much of their range and are now thought to number less than 10,000 individuals," added ZSL's Sarah Durant. "Any illegal trade in cheetahs will exacerbate these declines."

Wild cheetah in Kenya. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting runs through March 14. It is being held in Bangkok.

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Conservationists: ban the wild cheetah pet trade.