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Vet returns to Taiwan after cheetah conservation work in Somaliland

Injury, disease, declining gene pool pose threat to cheetahs

Taiwan veterinarian volunteers to help cheetahs. (CNA photo)

Taiwan veterinarian volunteers to help cheetahs. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese veterinarian Chen Yi-kai (陳弈凱) concluded six months of volunteer cheetah conservation in Somaliland, Africa.

There are only 7,500 cheetahs left in the world, including more than 90 in Somaliland. Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund signed an agreement with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in 2022, paving the way for Taiwanese youth to become involved in cheetah conservation, per CNA.

Chen returned to Taiwan in January after completing his volunteer service. He eagerly embraced this chance to work closely with the large cats, as their numbers in Taiwan are limited.

Vet returns to Taiwan after cheetah conservation work in Somaliland
Caring for sick cheetahs. (CNA photo)

Chen said that during his volunteer service, he encountered vets from the U.S., France, India, and other countries. They debated treatment options, eager to learn how to better serve cheetahs.

For one month, he was the only veterinarian on staff, a difficult task considering the amount of treatment that needed to be administered. However, Chen said his work was aided by a Taiwanese female veterinarian practicing in the U.S. who was just concluding her service and was able to transfer some of her knowledge.

Many of the cheetahs located in the park were smuggled as pets destined for Middle Eastern customers. Many were also rescued at just a few months old, before being brought to this sanctuary.

Chen said the curious nature of cheetahs leads many to be sprayed with cobra poison, requiring medical treatment. Chen said he treats one case of cobra venom attacks per week.

Vet returns to Taiwan after cheetah conservation work in Somaliland
Rescuing a vulnerable species under threat from humans. (CNA photo)

Other cheetah injuries may come from falls or battles between hyenas and monkeys. One cheetah named Janet had a leg amputated after two failed attempts to fix a fracture.

Another concern for cheetahs in the sanctuary was feline coronavirus, in which the virus can cause a lifelong infection and infectious peritonitis.

Finally, Chen said the biggest threat affecting cheetahs is the dwindling gene pool leading to inbreeding, making the population prone to genetic diseases and poor immune systems. For this reason, cheetahs will have to depend on humans for their future survival.