Cheetahs as pets: Workshop addresses attitudes, demand, enforcement, rescue

Cheetahs cubs taken from the wild can wind up as house pets, and IFAW is working to reduce the demand and enforce illegal trafficking. Photo: © Jim ZuckermanPerhaps all of the human-inflicted threats to the biodiversity of our planet originate in one single human behavioral predisposition: greed.

Human greed is certainly driving cheetahs in the Horn of Africa to extinction. One of the main reasons why cheetahs are vanishing in the wild spaces in this region is that men in the Middle East relish in having a cheetah as a pet.

They think having a cheetah as a pet makes them look important.

Sounds unbelievable to most of us, but it is real; the illegal market for pet cheetahs in places like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait includes a supply of 300 cheetah cubs a year.

Most of these cubs originate from the Somali region in Ethiopia. They are poached from the wild, the mothers oftentimes killed in the process. This practice is highly unsustainable and incredibly cruel. Most cubs don’t make it to the end market alive and those that do live short lives.

Cheetahs are sensitive animals and husbandry is difficult.

And dangerous.

Cheetahs never make good pets. 

In an attempt to tackle the issue IFAW organized a workshop specifically focusing on the poaching and trafficking of cheetahs in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. We gathered experts from governments and non-governmental organizations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to discuss the issue in every detail, focusing on:

  • the needs of communities that live in this landscape,
  • the challenges for effective cross-border law enforcement,
  • the ways to curb the demand, and
  • the process by which we rescue individual cheetah cubs in this trade.

Workshop participants addressed needs of the communities, law enforcement, demand, and rescue of trafficked cheetahs.

IFAW believes it is our obligation to care for individual animals while protecting the species. IFAW cannot do this alone. A collaborative approach is very much needed, the trafficking goes through a difficult region which includes eastern Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland and Yemen.

The next step is to raise the funds to implement the strategies. A lot of work lies ahead of us but I believe it is possible to safe the Horn of Africa cheetah population and its individual members.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy