Cheetahs are at risk of dying out in East Africa because their cubs are stolen and sold to rich Arab men as rich pets.
Dr. Laurie Marker, from the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Mail Online said that every year up to three-quarters of the cubs born in wild cheetahs in the Horn of Africa are taken and sold to smugglers.
She believes that if no action is taken to end the trade, the animals may die out within two years.
Videos & images posted on Instagram and discovered by Mail Online reveal how wealthy owners in Saudi Arabia and the UAE show off the big cats as status symbols, drive around with the animals in their cars & at home posing with them.
Cheetahs are at risk of dying out in Ethiopia, Somalia and Northern Kenya within two years because most of their cubs are stolen and sold as pets.
According to researchers, a maximum of three-quarters of cubs born every year from around 300 wild cheetahs are smuggled from Africa to the Arabian Peninsula.
Big cats are popular status symbols in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where their wealthy owners show them off on Instagram
According to Dr. Marker, who has spent her entire life researching cheetah populations in Africa, is known to have 300 wild cheetahs living in the Horn of Africa – spread across Ethiopia, Somalia, and northern Kenya.
Every year she believes that about 300 cubs of these animals have been taken – either by local farmers trying to exterminate them or poachers – and are being sold to smugglers who bring them to the Arabian Peninsula.
This number represents between two-thirds and three-quarters of all cubs born in the region, Dr. Research suggests. Marker.
About 75 percent of these animals die during transport – either from malnutrition or from broken bones when packed in small crates to be sent abroad.
Those who survive are then sold as pets, with prices often exceeding $ 6,000 per animal.
Even then, most cheetahs will die within two years because their owners have no idea how to take care of them.
Dr. Marker said: & # 39; They don't like these animals. They have discovered that having these pets is a status symbol. When one dies, they just go back to the wilderness and get another. & # 39;
Videos & images discovered by Mail Online show the vulnerable animals being loaded and driven around in cars, or otherwise chained in small cages
During a short search on Instagram and Facebook, Mail Online discovered messages that seemed to offer cheetahs for sale, posted publicly on both sites.
Other videos show how the big cats are loaded into cars and driven by their bragging owners.
One cheetah is watched on video on TV while others watch wild animals, while in another video an adult cat is stroked by a child.
In one piece, a cheetah is moved up and down in a small metal cage, while in another, a hissing animal is fed while seated in a dirty enclosure.
Dr. Marker now calls for more information in both Africa and the Middle East about the impact of cheetah smuggling, and that leaders in both regions take a stand against trade.
She said: & # 39; There is no sense that what is happening is wrong, so we need to train community leaders.
& # 39; Education and training play a very important role, but tribal and religious leaders must lead by example.
Experts say that three-quarters of the cheetahs taken from the wild die before finding a buyer, while those who end up in homes rarely live longer than two years due to malnutrition and disease
A short search on Instagram and Facebook via Mail Online revealed what seemed to be cheetah ads, with prices above $ 6,000.
One video showed a big cat forced to watch a program about wild cheetahs on TV, while another showed an animal walking back and forth in its cage
& # 39; From the demand side it comes from a higher level. Influences such as Sheikhs and Princes must tell people that it is not something that you should do.
& # 39; Group pressure must be on the demand side, laws will not necessarily help because laws are effective only if you can enforce them. & # 39;
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have laws that prohibit the ownership of such pets, but enforcement is lax.
As part of her work Dr. Marker to rescue some big cats and take them to a rescue center in Somaliland – an autonomous region of Somalia.
However, she says that half of the cats she receives often died shortly afterwards due to poor treatment by smugglers, and the future for survivors is often bleak.
Most cubs are taken from their mothers between three and ten weeks old and do not develop the instincts they need to survive in the wild.
There is little other option than to keep them in rescue centers or to find special units where they can be housed until a longer-term solution can be found.
She added: & # 39; Cheetahs are such a special animal, you end up with these little cubs that have been pulled out of their mothers and are very sick.
& # 39; Many of them die and that is heartbreaking, it is terrible, devastating when that happens. Wild animals must be left behind to live in the wild. & # 39;
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