A spot of bother

The Born Free Foundation rescues cheetahs from the exotic pet trade and cares for them in large reserves

ConservationEasily recognised by its spotted coat, black ‘tear marks’ and long legs, the stunning cheetah is the smallest of the ‘big cats’ but, unlike lions and leopards, can’t roar but can purr! Once found on five continents, cheetahs are under threat due to conflict with humans, and loss of habitat and prey.

The exotic pet trade is a major problem – cheetahs are in high demand, especially in the Middle East, and cubs are stolen from the wild and sold. Wild animals are extremely difficult to care for and many die in transit or in their first few weeks.

To the rescue
International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation rescues cheetahs from the exotic pet trade. Young cubs are kept together under the watchful eye of their care team, while older cheetahs are split into males and females and live in spacious enclosures several acres in size. Full of indigenous trees and bushes, dense undergrowth to explore and sandy soil to roll in, these natural habitat homes have large ponds to drink from, plus plenty of room to run!

Sadly the youngsters have all known terrible suffering. They were all just cubs when first rescued, having undergone terrifying ordeals. Back in 2011 Born Free rescued the first set of cheetahs, after customs officials became suspicious of noises coming from plastic containers being smuggled out of Ethiopia and destined for Somaliland. Four frightened, starving baby cheetahs were found, just seven weeks old. Their mother had no doubt been killed and they had been stolen from the wild by poachers, to be sold as ‘exotic pets’.

The four infants were brought to Born Free’s centre, but tragically, despite expert loving care and good food, one died. But the remaining three, Dembel, a boy, and Timkat and Arapea, his sisters, have flourished and grown, and today are playful and strong young adults.

In 2012 four more cheetah cubs were seized from wildlife traffickers as they were being smuggled to a Somaliland port. On their 77-hectare close to Addis Ababa, Born Free has given the quartet a wonderful home.

In April 2015 Born Free rescued three more young cheetahs. Their Ethiopia team collected three confiscated cheetah cubs close to the Somali border. The sisters are now safely at the rescue centre.

YOU CAN HELP
Please help Born Free look after their extended cheetah family. You’ll receive a great gift pack, FREE cuddly toy and regular magazine updates – www.bornfree.org.uk