The animal landed in Heathrow on 22 December. It was 1 of 4 being transported from a safari park in South Africa to Russia.
Checks revealed 1 of the male cheetahs wasn’t micro-chipped, a breach of Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations governing the transportation of endangered animals, and therefore wasn’t properly identifiable.
Following an investigation by the UK Border Agency’s specialist CITES team the animal was seized. It has been named Isaac by officers and will now be re-homed at a UK wildlife park.
Marc Owen, head of UK Border Agency operations at Heathrow, said:
‘Cheetahs are an endangered animal. The illicit trade in animals is a serious contributory factor in the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species, and that is why the rules around moving them are so strict.
‘Each animal has to be clearly identifiable by a unique marking, for instance a microchip, to ensure they can be tracked and traced, and to prevent them being sold illegally. At this stage we do not know whether this was simply an error or whether there were other reasons for it.’
Of Isaac’s 3 travelling companions 2 female cheetahs have continued on their journey to Russia, while another male will now be transported back to South Africa.