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For Immediate Release: 06/30/14

Born Free Launches Global Campaign to Keep Cheetahs Off Chains

International animal welfare charity rescues another cheetah from pet trade while calling for action to stop cheetah poaching

Washington, D.C. -– Today, Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, global leaders in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, called on international leaders to act swiftly to save the cheetah, in advance of the Meeting of the Standing Committee to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Born Free will have a delegation in Geneva, Switzerland July 7 to July 11, 2014, when CITES delegates will meet to discuss the illegal trade in cheetahs and the threats facing the species.

It was also announced today that Born Free’s team in Ethiopia has undertaken a difficult journey to collect a rescued cheetah cub from Jijiga in the far east of Ethiopia, close to the border with Somalia. Stephen Brend, the Born Free Foundation Ethiopia country director, retrieved this cheetah who was confiscated in May from Harirad and is bringing him to Ensessakotteh, Born Free’s Wildlife Rescue, Conservation, and Education Centre in Ethiopia. The cub, one of three males, is thought to be three months old and the sole survivor of the trio.

According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, and acting CEO of Born Free Foundation, who will attend the Geneva meeting, “This rescue is the fallout from the illegal cheetah trade, and until the demand for these animals stops, these youngsters will continue to die.”

Cheetahs may be the fastest land animals, but they are no match for criminals who capture them from the wild and smuggle them to the Middle East where they are highly prized as pets. With cheetah populations plummeting to fewer than 10,000, Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation are issuing an urgent warning for the international community to take action to stop the trade and protect vulnerable cheetah populations.

Roberts explains, “Born Free regularly encounters first-hand the consequences of this dire trade. Our rescue center, Ensessakotteh, is home to a number of rescued cheetahs and other wild animals. But these are the lucky ones. Many others either die in transit to the Middle East, or face a lifetime as pets with a chain around their necks.”

A recent study commissioned by CITES uncovered a thriving trade in live cheetah cubs, illegally exported from East Africa via Somaliland and Somalia, which are then imported to the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these cubs do not make it—with a reported mortality rate of 70% recorded from confiscations in Somalia and Ethiopia.

Born Free will call on CITES Parties in Geneva to combat illegal trade in live cheetah through enhanced enforcement at borders and the urgent development of improved legislative and regulatory controls. Born Free is also advocating that a stakeholder workshop be held in a cheetah range state to explore the main threats to the cheetah and identify sound strategies to minimize these threats.

“It is a tragedy that these magnificent animals are being used for selfish human entertainment,” says Roberts. “We do not know how many cheetahs are illegally captured each year, but there is no doubt that the consequences are having a devastating impact on wild cheetah populations. Decisive action must be taken before it is too late.”

The Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity, devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare. Born Free takes action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering. Born Free believes wildlife belongs in the wild and works to phase out zoos. The Foundation rescues animals from lives of misery in tiny cages and gives them lifetime care. Born Free protects lions, elephants, tigers, gorillas, wolves, polar bears, dolphins, marine turtles and many more species in their natural habitats, working with local communities to help people and wildlife live together without conflict. The Foundation’s high-profile campaigns change public attitudes, persuade decision-makers, and get results. Every year, Born Free helps hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide. More at www.bornfree.org.uk.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free USA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Media contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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