The mega-rich are buying up cheetahs as pets and now they’re going extinct. The total world cheetah population is under 7,500 and around 1,000 are currently kept privately in homes in Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
The reason? Showing off, probably. Because what else do you do when a gold plated/diamond studded/Louis Vuitton Rolls Royce doesn’t stand out anymore?
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) calls the smuggling of baby cheetahs for rich buyers an “epidemic” and says all the cheetahs in the Horn of Africa region could soon be extinct.
They get stuffed in small boxes and shipped to the Arabian Peninsula by boat. Many arrive with broken legs and major injuries from the cramped ride and three out of four die on the way.
The cheetahs that do arrive are picked up by rich sheikhs and taken to mansions where the potbellied oil bros can enjoy showing off their new pets, which have become a major status symbol.
If that news makes you angry, congratulations: you just might be a human being with a heart. Either that, or you just realised your $2 million Bugatti doesn’t cut it anymore, and you fear the cheetahs may run out soon.
Buyers often take many photos of their pet to show off their wealth and prestige and post them on social media including the cheetahs sitting in expensive cars, hanging out at the pool and getting forced to eat lollipops and ice cream.
One social media post shows a captive cheetah getting upset as it sees a documentary about cheetahs on TV. The owner joked that the cheetah was “fixated on her family,” in a caption on the post. Maybe the owner would enjoy being kept captive in a giant cheetah clan while they laugh at him when he gets upset after he sees his family looking around for him on the Cheetah Channel.
But, there is another problem. Cheetahs are the quickest-running mammal on earth and require special foods to stay healthy. Think impala, or zebra, not vanilla ice cream and humiliation.
Most Gulf owners don’t know —or care—about those requirements and the majority of cheetahs die within two years of arrival. The mega rich cheetah bros just want the Instagram likes, not the tedious ‘keeping the pet alive’ part.
The UAE has said there are no illegal cheetahs in the country and also said it has taken down 800 sites so far that sell illegal cheetahs. After all, having farms that sell Cheetahs when there is no such thing as Cheetah selling could be confusing.
Over 1,360 cheetahs were found for sale in mostly the Gulf Arab countries between 2012 and 2018. Baby two or three-month-old cheetahs start at around $6,600 USD and there are discounts for big orders. Lions are also increasingly popular for the more daring sadist. Altogether illegal wildlife smuggling is worth about $20 billion per year globally and attempts to crack down online have not been very effective. Probably because a picture of your pet hamster doesn’t get Instagram quite as much action as a picture of a Cheetah watching TV.
On the plus side, Somaliland is advancing anti-trafficking measures and has saved 32 orphan cheetah babies. Somaliland officials emphasise that stopping demand is the number one way to make sure these cheetahs stay in the wild.
In other words, something else needs to become cool and flash for the unimaginative oil posers out there. Think painting eggs, knitting or seeing who can build the most solar-powered libraries in a week.