NAIROBI, December 10 (Reuters) – (This December 10 story corrects the third paragraph to add details of how the cheetah cubs were rescued.)

The two hungry cheetah cubs screech and tug at their leashes in the white dust of Somaliland as a government veterinarian pushes needles through their fluffy fur to feed them fluids and nutrients.

At around five months of age, baby cheetahs are dehydrated, stunted and so lacking in the calcium they would normally get from their mother’s milk that they have trouble walking. But at least they are alive.

The cubs were rescued from a nomad in November by the government of Somaliland, which seceded from Somalia in 1991, in partnership with Torrid Analytics, an environmental group that provided Reuters access to the rescue. They are now in the care of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are only around 6,700 adult cheetahs left in the wild worldwide, and the population continues to decline.

Kidnapped puppies are often destined for the exotic pet trade in the Middle East, but few people realize the suffering that comes with it. Four or five cheetah cubs die for every one that reaches the market, said Dr. Laurie Marker, director of CCF. Mothers are often killed.

Its first year, CCF received about 40 puppies in Somaliland, he added. Many did not survive long. But by setting up safe houses and providing veterinary care, they have been able to reduce deaths to almost zero in four years, she said. Right now, the organization houses 67 cheetahs.

Droughts exacerbated by global warming are increasing pressure on cheetahs, he said, as less grazing supports fewer herds of wild prey and farm animals. Farmers who once shrugged off when a cheetah attacked one of their animals are now less able to take the losses, she said.

“If a predator eats their cattle, they get a lot angrier,” he said. “They will go and track down the mother, where the pups would be, and try to get money from the pups to cover the losses they had.”

Somaliland plans to open a national park where cheetahs will be able to roam, Environment Minister Shukri Ismail Haji said.

But although the tiny breakaway region is on the hardest hit by climate change, it cannot access most environmental funds because almost no world body recognizes it as a separate country from Somalia, the minister said.

“We are an unrecognized government. As a result, the international funding we can get is very little