5 July 2012

Kenya: Prominent Names in Cheetah Capture Scam

Kenya's cheetahs are being captured from national parks and game reserves and relocated to private conservancies, it has been revealed. Cee4life, an Australian-based organisation, has published details of a long- running scheme involving conservation personalities in which the Kenya Wildlife Service has "unwittingly participated". The Mara Cheetah Cubs Report links a prominent member of Kenya's conservation fraternity as one of those behind the scandal.

The report indicates that plans are afoot to relocate some cheetahs from an orphanage to an upcoming conservancy in Nakuru. The Cheetah Centre is to be built by an American organisation called Cat Haven, which allegedly funds Ms Wykstra's work in Kenya. When it was known that KWS had planned to confiscate three cubs from the Mara Triangle in early May, there was global outcry. More than 3,000 people signed an online petition in a few days prompting KWS to react by posting a statement.

KWS remains opposed to releasing the animals in the wild saying, "attempts to release captive reared cheetahs to the wild have been unsuccessful." However, the report disputes this, citing 107 successful cheetah release cases in Africa, 12 of which have been documented in Kenya. With less than 30 cheetahs recorded in a recent census in the Mara, the animal faces a serious threat of local extinction. "It is noted that KWS and the carnivore experts did not consider the consequences of removing the Mara cubs from (the) ecosystem in the survival of the species as a whole," states the report.

Dr. Steven Best, a U.S based Professor of Humanities and Philosophy describes the report saying; "few times in my life I have read such a meticulously documented, thoroughly researched, utterly persuasive, and powerful expose of one of the most deceptive, cynical, and manipulative frauds in conservation history." He continues to ask, "does Kenya want ecological death or biological regeneration?"

The report has recommended among other things, an immediate and thorough investigation into claims of massive illegal trade in orphaned cheetahs. It seeks that this be conducted by a separate and higher authority outside of KWS; and any cheetahs that have been found to be given as "gifts" be returned to an ethical facility. It also recommends that KWS officially approve the release program that has been presented to them by Mara Conservancy, and implement an immediate start to the official scientific program for wild release of cheetah.

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