Today is international cheetah day. A day when we celebrate these speed demons of the savannah. A day when we admire their svelte form and delicate spots. A day when we wonder what the future holds of these incredible creatures. At this point it’s a real toss up about what’s faster – a hunting cheetah or their devastating rate of extinction. With only 7,000 adults left in the wild (that’s less than 10% of their historical population), there is no time to delay in taking action against their extinction. The problems driving their rapid decline are numerous – human wildlife conflict in rural areas and shrinking habitats, for instance. But there’s one other threat – a hidden one that’s not often mentioned but has real potential to push cheetahs right out of existence. The exotic pet trade.
Several thousand cheetahs are held in captivity around the world, shown off as the trophies and whims of men without any respect for nature. When cubs are as young as four to six weeks old, they are stolen from their mothers in the wild and tossed into cages for sale on the black market. On their way to their final destinations, many go days without food or water and are left to wallow in their own feces. Only 15% of the cubs are estimated to survive the horrendous ordeal. Unfortunately, their nightmare is far from over. Fed an improper diet and denied the exercise they desperately need, most captive cheetahs die very quickly.
It is estimated that over the past 10 years, around 1,200 cheetahs have been illegally smuggled out of Africa. With their populations teetering on the edge of extinction, the exotic pet trade is damaging the chance of any of recovery that wild cheetahs may have. Cheetahs deserve to live freely on the savannahs of Africa, not tethered to chains or locked in cages without any chance of a normal life.
If you’d like to make a difference, please sign the petition to end the exotic pet trade. A link to the top cheetah conservation organization is included as well – check it out to learn more about getting involved.