Kenya’s concerted efforts to save the cheetah on Tuesday got a boost at an international wildlife conference after conservation lobbies called for a drive to stamp out illegal trade in the animal.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London and the Endangered Wildlife Trust joined representatives from Kenya at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Bangkok, Thailand, highlighted the plight of cheetahs, threatened by the illegal trade.
The Kenyan delegation was joined by the Ethiopian and Ugandan teams in raising concern over declining cheetah populations in East Africa, believed to be the source for smugglers.
The Cites conference accepted a proposal to commission the first serious study on cheetah trade, which will form the basis for future conservation action.
The study, once concluded, will help Cites lobby governments sanctioning such trade to ban the practice that denies cheetahs a life in the wild.
A press statement from the conference says the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking recorded 27 cases involving trafficking of 70 cheetahs within a year.
Dr Nick Mitchell of Wildlife Conservation Society and zoological society said: “Cheetahs are already extinct in many countries, and in eastern Africa, resident populations are known to exist in just six per cent of their estimated historical range since poachers target cubs that are easier to handle and transport.”
Apart 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 under the Red List of Threatened Species is given as “Vulnerable”.