Selling for around US $10,000 per cheetah, purchasing your very own wild cat doesn’t come cheap. But this hasn’t slowed an expanding market for rare “luxury pets”, which has seen demand for cheetahs skyrocket over the last decade, particularly in the Middle East.
According to a new report compiled for the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), the big cats are becoming increasingly popular as status-symbol pets in the Gulf States, leading to an increase in the illegal smuggling of wild cheetahs through Africa.
“The primary destination of live cheetahs from this region, based on multiple confirmations and lines of evidence, are the Gulf States,” the report explains.
“The keeping of big cats in residential areas across the Arabian Peninsula poses serious environmental and safety risks, both to people as well as the cats,” it adds.
With a diminishing population of just 10,000, smuggling is significantly damaging the preservation of cheetahs. Figures in the report indicate that up to two thirds of cubs are snatched from their homeland before maturity, many of which will die in transit.
The majority of animals are taken from the Horn of Africa, where a distinct sub-species numbers just 2,500. These cats are reportedly trafficked by boat from Somalia to Yemen and then by road into the Gulf States.
Other primary threats facing the cheetah population include the illegal use of the animal in traditional Asian medicines and an increase in African farmers killing the wild cats to protect livestock.
Historically, cheetahs have been bred in Africa as royal hunting animals. The population of the wild cat has diminished by 90% over the last century.