Illegal cheetah trade threatens to 'wipe out species completely'

  • Video report by ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray

Just 7,000 cheetahs remain in the wild - and their numbers are dwindling due to an illegal trade that risks wiping out the species.

The animals, which are the most endangered big cats in Africa, have become status symbols in the Gulf states, where they are illegally transported from their natural habitats.

Investigators estimate that as many as 250 cheetah cubs are stolen from the wild each year.

"For every one that might make it, probably five or six to seven might not make it," Dr Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund told ITV News.

"Once they do make it over into the Middle East, most of them don't even make it to two years of age."

Cheetahs are sometimes paraded on social media to flaunt wealth in the Gulf states. Credit: ITV News

Animal experts have called for tougher rules to prevent the trade in cheetahs.

According to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa, without the action of the entire global community, the cheetah could be lost in the wild completely.