Somaliland Succeeds In Curbing Cheetah Cubs Poaching

The Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Rural Development in coordination with the Cheetah Conservation Fund has succeeded in curbing the poaching of cheetahs in the country over the last year.

A joint report by the Environment and Rural Development ministry and the CCF indicates that over the last ten months, there have been no reported cases of poaching of cheetah cubs that had been rampant in the past.

The report states that this notable downturn in activity follows the wave of rescue missions that have been sustained from October last year by the two agencies.

Earlier between July and October last year, authorities intercepted eight notorious traffickers with 13 cubs leading to increased surveillance. Those arrested have since been charged and convicted in Hargeisa.

Cabdiraxmaan Yusuf Mahdi was arrested on October 17, 2020, in possession of 10 cheetah cubs while six others had earlier been arrested trying to sell three cubs to a local Hargeisa resident.

Cabdiraxmaan Yusuf Mahdi received a four-year term and a fine of three million Somaliland shillings. His sentence is the most serious sentence handed down by any African court in a wildlife trafficking case involving cheetahs, according to Somaliland Environment Minister Shukri H. Ismail.

The minister said the arrests and concerted fight have led to the success in curbing the menace.

“The Ministry believes there are several reasons for the ten-month quiet period. First, a CCF-MoERD joint media campaign documenting the 2020 confiscations and arrests generated awareness in the local communities about the illegal cheetah trade.

For many people, this was the first time they learned poaching cubs is against the law. Second, MoERD has been working with our Somaliland Regional Coordinators to increase awareness of all of our wildlife laws and the penalties for breaking them.

And third, there appears to be a decrease in cheetah cub trading between Somaliland and Yemen.”

Abdinasir Hersi, the Director-General of the Environment Ministry said because the government has stepped up enforcement in the Gulf of Aden, there are fewer Yemeni vessels attempting to illegally access the Somaliland coast.

The CCF and MoERD say the lull in poaching has allowed them to focus on other aspects of their partnership.

“In addition to providing 24/7 care for 55 confiscated animals that live in CCF’s Safe Houses, CCF has the mandate to build capacity in Somaliland wildlife law enforcement with LICIT (Legal Intelligence/Cheetah Illicit Trade), a 2.75-year project funded by the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund,” they said in a joint statement.

The CCF and LICIT partners International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Legal Atlas, develop legal frameworks, fill in gaps in existing legislation, and provide training for government officials in both domestic and regional law enforcement.

CCF and its partners are planning their next LICIT training in Hargeisa for this September.

“CCF is pleased by the cooperation between the Somaliland Police, Coast Guard, Ministry of Environment and Rural Development and the Somaliland courts system, which we support through LICIT.

We consider this ten-month quiet period as significant progress in our efforts to stop cheetah trade”, said Dr Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF.

“But while we are happy for the ground we gained, we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us”.