THT-Somaliland, on the Gulf of Aden facing Yemen, has been identified as a preferred transit route for wildlife trafficking.
While the trafficking deals with diverse species the one in particular concern is the illegal trade in Cheetahs especially cubs that are sourced from within Somaliland as well as from Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and Somalia.
According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund –CCF the illegal trade in cheetahs is one of the main threats to the survival of the species of which fewer than 7500 adults remain in the wild among them only 300 in the Horn of Africa.
Now with 36 rescued Cheetahs a second and spacious sanctuary has been established in the Capital Hargeisa with a capacity to handle many more, a development made possible by the Somaliland Wildlife Conservation law which was Promulgated of a president Silanyo decree # JSL/M/WM/249-3775/012016 after approval by parliament in the same year facilitates the creation of wildlife parks and subsequent protection which shall have a huge impact on prevalent poaching.
Upon completing a tour of the new cheetah sanctuary VP Abdirahman Abdilahi Sayli thanked the various institutions behind the conservation efforts while pledging continued support from the government of Somaliland.
“I am very proud of the activities leading to this sanctuary that houses 36 cheetahs rescued from poachers and smugglers and the government of president Muse Bihi is committed to providing all necessary help within its reach thence sustainable wildlife conservation” said VP Sayli.
The second Hargeisa Cheetah Sanctuary launch that was officiated by the Somaliland Vice president Abdirahmam Sayli flanked by minister of environment and rural development Ms. Shukri Bandare and other senior officials were taken round the new sanctuary by CCF staff with a subsequent detailed briefing by the CCF founder and CEO Dr. Laurie Marker.
“Thanks to this sanctuary efforts to conserve the cheetah which is an endangered species have been boosted” Said Dr Laurie Marker, adding that the horn of Africa is currently home to ONLY 300 cheetahs.
Illustrating the threat to cheetah survival in the horn of Africa the conservationists revealed that so far 210 have been illegally offered for sale in the Arabian Peninsula, with only a third of them confiscated by local authorities.
Stressing that the 36 cheetahs now under care at the Hargeisa sanctuary Dr. Markel stressed on the importance her organization attaches to support availed by various partners that have resulted in not successful establishment of a cheetah sanctuary but ability care for those rescued, counter poaching and arrest illegal traffickers.
Apart from CCF and the ministry of Environment and rural development the main Somaliland wildlife conservation partners others include Edna Adan hospital, Nashville Zoo that assist with veterinary services as well as the Colorado state University.
“Most of the confiscated cubs come into the safe house in critical condition, including severe dehydration, injuries and infectious diseases and require intensive care, and with in-country resources for cheetah care very limited veterinary supported availed is very crucial to the whole project” stated Dr Markel adding that external expertise at hand has also been utilized to train local personnel who are now capable of providing services without 100% supervision.
Overall, Nashville Zoo has been supporting the Somaliland-CCF cheetah efforts through donations of medications and equipment, but last September, the Zoo sent Dr. Woc Colburn to Somaliland to assist with the health assessment of 30 cheetahs. She worked in conjunction with Laurie Marker and a South African veterinary team led by Dr. Peter Caldwell.
Other institutions partnering the Somaliland cheetah conservation who joined CCF and its local associates in 2011 to fight the illegal wildlife trade in Somaliland the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Horn SPCA, the Candlelight Foundation and the Somaliland Biodiversity Foundation. We also work with DECAN Djibouti and the Born Free Foundation Ethiopia, which have kindly received and cared for some of the rescued cheetahs. Together, and as part of a larger effort across the Horn of Africa, we are making every effort to raise funds and implement our strategies: education and awareness, capacity building in the areas of enforcement and wildlife husbandry, and the establishment of a sanctuary for confiscated animals. Our ultimate goal: to stop the trade.
According to the Minister Shukri Bandare it is important to address the issues that drive the supply of poached cheetah cubs especially to the Gulf countries through Somaliland adding that “estimates indicate that every year more than 300 young cheetahs are illegally snatched from Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland”
“The rising trade in cheetahs and other animals for luxury pets in the Middle East is helping to drive critical populations of wildlife to extinction in Somaliland and North and East Africa,” said Shukri Ismail, Somaliland’s environment minister.
The environment minister says that the second and now permanent cheetah sanctuary in Hargeisa is only beginning of wildlife conservation efforts and elimination of poaching and illegal trafficking in Somaliland following the successful establishment of relevant laws fully backed by the government.
“In the recent past CCF and my ministry supported by local law enforcement agencies have curtailed over 50 attempts to smuggled cheetahs , and perpetrators arraigned in court and sentenced accordingly” informed Minister Bandare.
Stressing that cheetahs are the first and not the only wildlife targeted for conservation in Somaliland the minister said that while “plans are afoot to increase the number cheetah sanctuaries we are also pursuing the establishment of national parks to cater for the many species of wildlife in the country”
Somaliland formerly home to a large number of assorted wildlife species has over the years and more so the civil war years of 1980s to early 90 seen huge populations in decline.
To establish prevalent status in this country, among one the most isolated, data-poor regions in Africa but known to have been home to over 36 species a comprehensive study titled “ Integrating indigenous local knowledge and species distribution modeling to detect wildlife in Somaliland” revealed the presence of 25 of the wildlife species.
The most commonly reported were cheetah, caracal (Caracal caracal), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata), Somali hare (Lepus habessinicus), white‐tail mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda), and Phillip’s dik dik.
The least reported species known to have inhabited Somaliland in recent decades include lion, African wild ass, and Somali wild dog (Lycaon pictus somalicus), African wild ass
Thanks to CCF cheetah based activities which started in 2011 Somaliland is set for greater wildlife conservation.
By: Yusuf M. Hasan