Smuggled cheetahs released into the wild
Wednesday 27 April 2011
Three adult cheetahs confiscated from a wildlife trader in Tanzania were released back into the wild at the weekend.
The big cats were seized at a house in Arusha, Tanzania’s safari capital, where they were being held in cramped cages barely high enough for the animals to stand.
Conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) worked with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the Tanzania Wildlife Division to urgently secure the release of the cheetahs.
The two female and one male cheetah were transported by a team of experts to a release site in Tarangire National Park on Thursday night (21 April) and then released the following morning.
Conservationists and staff from Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) carefully selected the release site to ensure there was a sufficient abundance of prey in the area, and a number of vantage points from where the cheetahs could familiarise themselves with their surroundings.
The male and one female cheetah were fitted with satellite collars before they were released. They will now be tracked by a team in Arusha who will monitor their movements over the forthcoming months to ensure they settle in well to their new home.
"This is the first known case of cheetah trafficking in Tanzania and it worryingly suggests that the illegal trade of this protected species is increasing."
"We hope the plight of these three cheetahs will raise awareness of the demand for big cats as pets in places such as the Middle East, and encourage increased law-enforcement at key trading hubs," says Dr Sarah Durant of ZSL and WCS.
Maurus Msuha from TAWIRI says: "The successful release of these cheetahs is a positive ending to what was a desperate situation. We are now appealing for extra vigilance so that the illegal trade in cheetah does not slip under the radar."
"Millions of people travel to Africa every year to see these amazing animals and we want to ensure they stay in the wild where they belong."
The Tanzania Wildlife Division are now appealing for information from the local community to determine whether the wildlife trader was working alone, or was part of a wider network.