Cheetahs at risk of extinction because super-rich buy them as status symbol pets

David Harding
The trade in cheetahs as pets could mean the cats becoming extinct, warn experts (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

Cheetahs are at risk of extinction because they have become a status symbol for the super-rich, an animal charity has warned

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) said that the increasing illegal trade in the big cats is pushing the animal to the edge of extinction in the wild.

The CCF calculates that there are less than 7,500 cheetahs remaining in the wild, while another 1,000 cheetahs are being held captive in private hands - mostly in the Gulf by wealthy owners in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar.

They say that, increasingly, young cheetahs are being trafficked out of Africa and then taken to private owners in the Gulf.

The animals are trafficked when cubs (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

The trend is of "epidemic proportions," according to the CCF, an organisation devoted to saving cheetahs in the wild.

"If you do the math, the math kind of shows that it's only going to be a matter of a couple of years [before] we are not going to have any cheetahs," said Laurie Marker, an American conservation biologist biologist and founder of CCF.

The animals are mostly trafficked through Somaliland in the Horn of Africa.

The animals are stowed away in cramped crates or cardboard boxes on boats and sent across the Gulf of Aden towards their final destination: the Arabian Peninsula.

The CCF says that the overwhelming majority of these cheetahs end up in Gulf Arab mansions, where Africa's most endangered big cats are flaunted as status symbols of the ultra-rich and paraded around in social media posts.

Read More on Yahoo News

Lost canary nicknamed Boris Johnson thanks to his fluffy hairdo

Pregnant seal found dead on the shores of Essex was shot through the heart

In one such post, a video shows a "pet" cheetah watching a National Geographic show and becoming visibly agitated when it sees one of its own on the screen.

"She's fixated on her family," reads the caption.

A Cheetah resting on a rock. The animal could become extinct in the wild (Reuters)

Other posts show cheetahs laying on luxury cars, getting force-fed ice cream and lollipops or even being declawed.

Experts say that confining the cheetahs, the world's fastest land mammal, is especially cruel as they need space to run and a special diet.

Captivity is "a dead-end for cheetahs," one expert said, according to a report on CNN.

---Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK---