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CNN International: Queen Approves U.K. Prime Minister's Request to Suspend Parliament; Interview with Stanley Johnson, Boris Johnson's Father, His Son's Current Brexit Strategy; Tropical Storm Dorian is Now Just Shy of Hurricane Strength; State of Emergency in Puerto Rico Ahead of Storm; Purdue Pharma in Talks to Settle Thousands of Lawsuits; Amazon Fires Appear to be Easing; Smuggling in Africa and Middle East Threatens Cheetahs. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta.

We are following two breaking news stories for you this hour. The Caribbean on hurricane watch as tropical storm Dorian intensifies and changes course, now headed for Puerto Rico and Florida.

Also, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister making a controversial move which could put the country on the verge of a constitutional crisis. Max Foster is outside the U.K. Houses of Parliament for us. And, Max, this is uncharted territory.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Lynda. We begin with our breaking news out of London. Queen Elizabeth approving the British Prime Minister requests to suspend Parliament early next month. Lawmakers will now return in mid-October, giving them just days to pass any legislation to prevent a no deal Brexit. Earlier opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wrote to the Queen to protest Mr. Johnson's request.


JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Yes, I've protested in the strongest possible terms on behalf of my party and I believe all the other opposition parties are going to join in with this in simply saying that suspending Parliament is not acceptable. It's not all. What the Prime Minister is doing is a sort of smash and grab on our democracy, nor is a force through a no deal exit from the European Union.


FOSTER: Turns out she'd already approved the request though. So the letter probably is academic. Reaction from other U.K. politicians has been swift though. Anger and bewilderment, with one fellow Conservative describing it was quote, constitutional outrage and profoundly undemocratic.

We have some of CNN's best for you in the U.K. capital. CNN's Nic Robertson, our international diplomatic editor here in Westminster. Also Anna Stewart, she is live outside 10 Downing Street. First of all to you, Anna, we're expecting normal Parliamentary session, now we've got a broken parliamentary session in this Queen's speech. Take us through what it will look like.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: So MPs will return as expected next week. But as you said, they will then just within days of having returned from summer be suspended and that is to allow for a new session to begin with the Queen's speech. Now what this does, Max, is reduce the amount of time that MPs will be able to try and introduce new legislation or try to disrupt the agenda of Parliament in order to try and prevent a no deal Brexit. That is what opposition parties met yesterday to discuss all the different options around that.

So the Prime Minister here has called for a Queen's speech. Now he says the reason he's doing this has nothing to do with Brexit. It's simply that he is a new Prime Minister with plenty of domestic policies that he wants to implemented and it is, I have to say, very usual for a new Prime Minister to do this.

What is unusual is the context. The context of an absolute political crisis where he has so much opposition and really hardly a majority at all, majority of one I believe at the moment. So this is the context. And take a listen to what Boris said. Because he did say that he still has given MPs some time to be able to debate Brexit.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October 17th summit. Ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate, the EU, to debate Brexit and all of the other issues, ample time.


STEWART: He isn't proroguing Parliament beyond that Brexit date which some people had feared. He is allowing some debate time but is incredibly limited. Now very interesting, Max, is what John Bercow, the Speaker of House of Commons, said today. Let me bring it up for you. He said.

However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of this prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty and shaping a course for the country.

Why is his reaction so important? Well he is the man that politically has a lot of power in Parliament to try and help people that want to prevent a no deal Brexit from using various legislative ways of doing so. He could help them break the convention. And It would appear, although he is apolitical, to certainly be keen on helping them with that. We will find out of course next week. Tuesday is when the MPs return -- Max.

FOSTER: Thanks, Anna, there are Downing Street. We've got various protesters here chanting. We've been hearing them say Johnson is a liar, stop the coup. Nic, if this wasn't a divisive already, it's become more so. But can Boris Johnson be blocked do you think in time that we've got?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: He has taken the initiative. Some might say stolen it at the expense of democracy would be the argument, stolen the initiative against his opponent.

[11:05:03] So yes, he is reducing the amount of time that they will have to try to block him. And it does seem that he has now -- they were already in a difficult position because they were divided in terms of trying to find a legislative mechanism. In trying in a way of calling a vote of no confidence. And then what to replace his government with, something behind Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition. There was an agreement on that. So the legal mechanism became the default way.

So really, Boris Johnson is heading them off at the pass and giving them less time to do it. So it does seem at this stage he has the initiative. He's drawn the battle lines. He's choosing where and when to fight these political engagements, and he has the upper hand at the moment.

FOSTER: And crucially it allows him to get back to Brussels and say he's in control of Parliament, therefore give me a deal. Which is what his people are briefing effectively today. That's what he wants. He's not trying to undermine Parliament.

ROBERTSON: He is trying to give him stronger negotiating position in Brussels. And Brussels view under the previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, was always that she will never able to go the hardline route and have a no deal Brexit. Because Parliament won't let her.

And they sort of felt perhaps under Boris Johnson -- even though he threatens it more convincingly, he would be stopped. The message today now is clear and very unlikely to be stopped. So you have to take my threat of a no deal Brexit seriously. And this is the way that he believes is necessary to negotiate with Brussels and is generally the accepted view in Britain. That Britain's been badly at negotiating with Brussels, that Brussels is bigger and stronger and tougher and better negotiators. But no, he's trying go up to them head to head.

And now they have to be convinced by what he is saying. That it's his words, not Parliament that counts. Take him at his word. The question is will they capitulate to his terms. The answer we get so far is no. So where does that leave him? Utterly undermined with a no deal. Will he precipitate a no deal? And is he really going to be able to walk away from that and be happy with that. He says yes, but we don't know.

FOSTER: OK. Well Boris Johnson's father, Stanley Johnson, should be on the phone with us. Can you hear me, Stanley? There's quite a lot of noise.

STANLEY JOHNSON, FATHER OF BRITISH PRIME MINISTER (via telephone): No, I can hear you, absolutely. Can you hear me?

FOSTER: Yes, good. Yes, I can. You don't always agree with your son, but do you agree with him on this issue and how he's handling it?

STANLEY JOHNSON: Yes, I certainly do. I've read his letter which he sent to the Queen. And I know the Queen has agreed to suspending Parliament. And honestly, I think that this is absolutely the right thing even though, as you rightly point out, I was a remainer. I campaigned actively for remain right up until the referendum of June 2016. But since then I've been saying to myself and saying to others, we've got to get this through. The people have voted for it. We have to deliver it.

And honestly, I think there's been a sea change in the politics of this country as people see that Boris really is going to deliver. And this particular letter today and the action to stall Parliament as a result of it, does seem to me to be absolutely consistent with his vision that yes, he has to get Brexit done. And then there's a whole set of things which this country needs to do. And that is what the Queen's speech will set out.

So he saying to himself enough time has been spent on Brexit. Let's clear the decks. Let's have a proper Queen's speech and let's move forward after that in a post Brexit situation. So yes, I'm in favor. I think he has done the right thing, and I think he will go through with it.

FOSTER: Give us a sense on this way of thinking. It's just been suggested to me today that he's on war footing. He been quite Churchillian about all of this. He's kept it very quiet, didn't he, this meeting with the Queen. Dispatching privy counselors up to Balmoral in a secret operation effectively, and then only announcing it a bit later on. Just describe how he is describing this and whether or not he is consulting more widely.

STANLEY JOHNSON: In August the Queen is in Balmoral. So if you want a meeting of a privy council, you have to send your privy counselors up to Balmoral. There are only three or four of them there, I think. And yes, I mean, all of the right steps have been taken and for a Prime Minister to spend Parliament is not unusual at all. In fact, this particular Parliament as Boris pointed out in his letter has been sitting close, 340 days. The nearest anybody got in 400 years was 250 days. So it's high time we did have a sort of suspension of Parliament.

Yes, I think you're right if you say this is related, will help certainly a resolution of the Brexit issue.

[11:10:00] And I think, honestly, if you wanted to challenge Boris of being high-handed. You would have said, well one option available to it -- one option available to him -- would have been to say, OK, let's suspend Parliament right up over the October 31st. So we went out without Parliament having a chance to stop it. So this way I think he has surprised everybody by going for it now. Yes, they'll be a shutdown. And will be able to concentrate on the business in hand.

FOSTER: Nevertheless, House Common Speaker, John Bercow, in as a position where he doesn't especially comment on political announcements, he certainly is. He's a bit of a different Speaker as well. But this is what he said.

However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of suspending Parliament now would be to stop MPs debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.

Yes. There is time to debate it, but not enough crucially. That's what he is arguing.

STANLEY JOHNSON: Well I do understand where Bercow is coming from. He long ago I think discarded the normally impartial role of speaker that he quite clearly the other day when he was speaking in Edinburgh, that he whatever he said, fight with every bone in his body to stop Brexit. And you do ask yourself this quite an unusual position for a Speaker to take.

But honestly, I think that we are going to have a recognition now that Parliament has spoken. It has spoken on so many occasions about Brexit. It was thrown out on three occasions Mrs. May's withdrawal bills. It's absolutely clear now that there has to be a resolution of this issue, and I think that Boris has done the right thing today. And I very much anticipate that matters will now move rapidly to a conclusion, whether or not the EU realizes that it would be in its own interest to make substantial changes to withdrawal agreements, I don't know. But I do know that one way or another as Boris put it, we will be out of the EU by October 31st this year.

FOSTER: OK. Stanley Johnson, father of Boris Johnson. Thank you very much indeed for sparing the time to speak to us today.

What do you make of that, Nic? It's the argument that all of his side are basically making. During this is, you know, just normal procedure. Doesn't feel like it though.

ROBERTSON: It doesn't. And I think what we understand here is Stanley who at one time as he said, was opposed to his son's actions and of course, this son was taking as many of his other children were opposed to Boris as well. They have political journalistic positions as well.

You know, I think what it makes clear today is that lines and the differences are clearly drawn. And Boris Johnson has really taken the initiative. That the differences are going to grow. During the anger is going to grow. That the frustrations will grow. These are all things that were predicted would happen if Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and went on this course. And what we're seeing now are those predictions come true.

One of those predictions and this is not in reference to what Stanley Johnson, his father is saying. But what we've heard from the leader at the Scottish National Party in Scotland today saying that this increases the chances of another independence referendum in Scotland.

And again, this was one of the consequences of Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister. That issues would become divisive and heated under his leadership and the way that he was campaigning for no deal Brexit. So we are going to witness more of that in lead up to 31st October. And this is really the sort of opening play on the new post Boris being Prime Minister Parliament, running up the 31st of October battlefield. This is the first major play.

FOSTER: It's never going to be straightforward.


FOSTER: Nic, thank you. We'll have lots more on this story for you throughout the hour. But first, we're going to be tracking developments for you, tropical storm Dorian as it barrels towards Puerto Rico and it's getting stronger as well. The very latest forecast for you is next.


You're watching CNN and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade, welcome back.

Well Puerto Rico is bracing for what could be another devastating storm while the island is still trying to recover from hurricane Maria two years ago. Here's what tropical storm Dorian looks like right now. It has strengthened to near hurricane status. And it is expected to grow even stronger. Hurricane warnings have just been issued for several islands in the Caribbean and a state of emergency has been declared ahead of that storm. Well Puerto Rican officials say flooding is the main concern.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now from Humacao in Puerto Rico. Good to have you with us. So this has been building strength. It has changed course overnight. You're in Puerto Rico where it's expected to hit the same side impacted by hurricane Maria.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It is, Lynda. On the eastern portion of this island -- Hurricane Maria even though it hit close to two years ago is still very much top of mind. Even though it was a very different system than what Dorian is right now. But they saw the devastation that that brought, and this time around they just don't want to take any chances. Especially with the forecast now calling for up to ten inches of rain in some portions, especially here on the eastern side of the island. Flooding of course remains a top concern.

But officials here have also not taken any chances in regard to infrastructure. The coast guard has shut down ports, airports have cancelled flights as well, and they are trying to prioritize people who in some cases are still dealing with damage from hurricane Maria. Some people that have tarped roofs. Some people with homes that just don't have infrastructure to withstand tropical storm force winds. They have been trying to make a huge effort to get them from their homes into shelters as they begin to prepare to ride this system out.

But again, just seems to continue strengthening by the minute really at this point. What we have experienced so far, is that we've experienced bands, outer bands coming in and out over the course of this morning. Obviously, at the very moment, we are on one of those out portions. But it will be in just a few hours there will be no more in and out. We will be fully in it and the torrential downpour of rain will begin.

All right, Omar Jimenez, we will be speaking to you again very shortly. Thanks so much.

I want to stay on this story and bring in CNN meteorologist Chad Myers who's tracking the storm. And, Chad, we saw it changing course overnight, not only heading for Puerto Rico, now heading for Florida this weekend which is a long weekend here in the U.S., where many people typically head to the beach.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly right. And if you're heading to the beach in Florida, you may be heading home on Saturday because you're in an evacuation zone. It could be that bad. Now what's considered a category three hurricane somewhere in the neighborhood of 185 kilometers per hour is expected somewhere along the Florida or Georgia gulf coast by Sunday into Monday.

This storm is really intensifying now over St. Croix. Although St. Croix your almost in the eye so you may not feel it. But certainly, Charlotte Amalie, the USVI, the BVI, all will be feeling this rapid intensification here of white bands. That's the higher cloud tops of a very strong storm about to explode and get much stronger.

Now the good news is it didn't happen 100 miles farther to the south or 200 kilometers farther to the south or it would be already a bigger storm. It'll be somewhere at 120 kph by later tonight. But the bigger story is the wider picture, as it goes north of Turks and Caicos into the Bahamas, we look at landfall.

[11:20:04] And they have to think anywhere from south Florida all the way to Georgia and maybe even South Carolina, at 185 kilometers per hour storm. And that's a significant rise just from the forecast of six hours ago where we were somewhere in the ballpark of about 150, 155 kph.

So here is the radar. There is the eye of the storm. There St. Croix right there. I have visited that little island right there. There's Charlotte Amalia up in here and then all the way up toward the BVI there. So the storm is getting stronger and moving into the USVI. We know it's getting stronger because there's a hurricane hunter aircraft, a C-130 flying through it. And you say to yourself, why would they possibly use a prop plane, a propeller to fly through it? Because if your flying in a jet and go with the wind, it actually could put the flame out. And with a propeller that won't happen. Better them than me -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, indeed, only Chad Myers. Good to have you with us, thanks.

MYERS: Thanks, you're welcome.

KINKADE: Well let's make a deal. The pharmaceutical giant blamed for igniting the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is said to be trying to do just that, to settle thousands of lawsuits. Purdue Pharma is accused of misleading the public about the addiction risks its prescription painkiller Oxycontin. Now it says part of a settlement proposal the Sackler family reportedly is willing to relinquish ownership of Purdue Pharma and pay out billions of dollars of its own money. Well CNN's Erica Hill joins us now from New York. And, Erica, face with thousands of lawsuits, this seems like an extraordinary way to stop the bleeding from this company.

ERICA HILL, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it's interesting, you know, and reaching out to them, I can tell you CNN has confirmed that Purdue Pharma is in talks to potentially settle upwards of 2,000 opioid lawsuits. How this would work out, just to point out here, some of these cases actually have been rolled into one case in Ohio. And a federal judge in that case was urging the parties to talk about a settlement. And that's part of what got us to where we're at today.

So the settlement could be in the 10 to $12 billion range. And as you alluded to, NBC news is reporting that as part of that settlement -- "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" also reporting -- that the Sackler family would then give up essentially its control of the company. It would have to put in the family 1 to $3 billion of their own money as part of this settlement.

Now in terms of what's happening with it, we can tell you in a statement from Purdue the company said that they do intend to defend itself vigorously, but that they see little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals. That's obviously the take from the company as to what this could do and whether this could end perhaps other legal fights. That is a major question that people are looking at today.

We've been talking a lot about these settlements and about these lawsuits this week because you recall earlier this week, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay more than $500 million in the state of Oklahoma. We should point out in Oklahoma, Purdue actually settled with the state there back in March to the tune of $270 million.

KINKADE: Fascinating case. Erica Hill, good to have you with us on the story. Thanks so much.

I want to go to Brazil now where it says it will accept an offer from Britain to contribute $12 million towards fighting wildfires in the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil's President, Jair Bolsonaro, had been reluctant to take international aid, accusing some leaders of treating Brazil like a colony.

Well efforts to fight the fire seem to be working. International monitors say the burning decreased in recent days and is now below average for this time of year.

Journalist Shasta Darlington joins us now from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Shasta, will they, won't they, accept aid? That's what we have been discussing several days after Brazil seemed to reject the $20 million offered by the G-7. A pretty modest amount. Sounds like they're open to getting more help.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, JOURNALIST: Well, that's right, Lynda. I think what this also shows is that issue with the G-7 had really turned very personal. So rather than it being so much about whether or not to accept foreign aid, it had turned into this really personal bickering and war of words between the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel Macron. Who called the fires here an international crisis. Said that he would raise it at the G-7 at a time when Bolsonaro was still sort of shrugging off the fires. Saying, oh no, it's those NGOs that are lighting the blazes to make me look bad.

So really Macron's comment put him on the spot, forced Bolsonaro to act and also made him very defensive. And from there things did get personal.

[11:25:00] But as you said, the latest is that Brazil is going to accept the $20 million in international aid from the G-7, as long as it can control it, as long as it can administer it. Even though we did hear again from Bolsonaro this morning saying he expects for Macron to withdraw those insults. They're also accepting the 10 million pounds in aid from Great Britain, some technical aid from Israel, and Bolsonaro announced this morning that the Amazon countries, Columbia, Bolivia, Brazil, et cetera will be meeting in Columbia on September 6th to talk about some kind of concerted effort to fight the fires. And as he said it, talk about sustainable development in the region. So we are seeing a bit more coordination here -- Lynda.

KINKADE: And so we did initially hear that Brazil was mobilizing 43,000 troops. Do we know how many have been deployed? And given we're seeing these satellite images seem to show that the fire activity is decreasing, does it suggest that it's working?

DARLINGTON: Well, Lynda, the information we have is that only 2,500 of those troops have been deployed. But as you said, these latest satellite images are indicating that fire activity has diminished. That is now at normal levels or even below normal levels. So that would indicate there has been an impact. I think one of the concerns here is what the long-term effects of all of these out of control fires will be. Now they've brought some of them under control. We still have a ways to go.

The peak burning season is really September. So we can't let our guard down. And at the same time, a lot of territory has been burned. What that will mean for this vast reserve that's about the size of two-thirds of Europe, largely uninhabited by people. But obviously with an incredibly diverse plant and animal life, will get to be seen. It'll probably take months to determine what that impact has been -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Absolutely. Shasta Darlington, good to have you on the story. We will continue to follow it. Thanks so much.

Well you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come, political pandemonium in the U.K. The Queen approving a request to suspend Parliament just months before the Brexit deadline. We're going to have more on our top story when we come back. Stay with us.

[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOSTER: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster, just outside the U.K. Houses of Parliament. We're going to return to our top story this hour.

The Queen approving a request from the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to suspend Parliament next month ahead of the Brexit deadline.

[11:30:02] Critics say it's meant to limit chances to Parliament to prevent a no deal divorce from the European Union. But Mr. Johnson insists MPs will have the opportunity to debate a Brexit plan before October 31st. Earlier he laid out his timeline for when Parliament returns next week.


JOHNSON: We're not going to wait until October 31st before getting on with our plans to take this country forward. And that's why we are going to have a Queen speech and we're going to do it on October 14th. And we've got to move ahead now with a new legislative program.


FOSTER: Rachel Shabi joining us here in the U.K. She joins me now. You're in touch with the remainer side here, the Labour side. How do you describe their response to today's move?

RACHEL SHABI, JOURNALIST: Everybody is absolutely outraged over what Boris Johnson has done. Some people have been describing it as a coup. Everybody has been describing it as unconstitutional. It's interesting because we've seen there are quite a few elements in the remain camp. But we've seen them really coalesce. They may not agree on various things, but they definitely to agree the they want to stop Boris Johnson's no deal, and they definitely do agree that the mother of all Parliaments is about to face the mother of all battles.

Because Parliament, they are going to try and find different ways, whether that's inside Parliament, whether that's through the courts, whether that's through street protests outside Parliament. They do want to find a way essentially for Parliament to wrest control back from the executive which they say has now behaved unconstitutionally.

FOSTER: Technically, how do you see that working with the time that they've now been given. The queens approved it. The suspension is happening, right?

SHABI: That's right, the Queen has approved it, but Parliament will come back from holiday next week. So there will be a week of Parliament sitting. Now we are hearing from quite categorically from a lot of remain MPs that that's enough time to do what they want to do which is to table an emergency motion so that they can take no deal off the table.

FOSTER: They agreed how to do that. Because the issue is its cross- party group isn't it? And they're struggling to find any agreement on how to carry this forward. SHABI: Well they did recently agree on how to take that forward. So

just yesterday we saw finally all of the leaders of the opposition parties come together and unite in agreement over pursuing a legislative path to try and stop a no deal Brexit. They say that it would cause incredible harm to Britain. They also say that there is no democratic mandate for it. And they are united. Again, they may not agree on various other things, and that's fine. Their leaders of different parties, they're not expected to, but they agree they want to go through the legislative to try and take no deal off the table.

FOSTER: Can they do it in a week? Is that what they need to do?

SHABI: They need to do it in a week. And they say that they can do it in a week. But also, if they have a situation where they ask Boris Johnson to delay Article 50 so that Britain has more time to negotiate a deal before by default leaving with no deal which would be chaos. If Boris then refuses to do what Parliament asks, they will then table a vote of no confidence.

FOSTER: Then what happens though?

SHABI: Well then there will be a general election, unless Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition can get together a unity Parliament. But their only job will be to extend Article 50 and: election. Either way we get to general election.

FOSTER: Well you say that but it may not happen before Brexit. Boris Johnson saying he won't leave if there's going to be a vote of no confidence. So how do you shove him out?

SHABI: Right, but there's all kinds of conversations around precisely that. There's a lot of people who are saying actually it will be unconstitutional. And we don't have a written constitution, which is why we have this problem. It means that we can have hard right populous leader like Boris Johnson just blow up all the conventions and throw Britain into chaos. And chaos is their brand very much like Trump. That is the playing field they like to operate.

One of the things that's being discussed now is whether Boris Johnson -- whether Britain can leave the EU while there is an election being called, whether that is constitutional. Because actually Parliament isn't allowed to do anything while there is general election campaign.

FOSTER: That's the call action that could follow next week.

SHABI: The call action is one mechanism. The other mechanism is just the way Parliament works. It has to go into what's known as purdah when the general election campaign happens. Which means it can't do anything that would impact the incoming government. So lots of different legal processes and also protests being planned outside Parliament tonight. There's a protest planned by various remain groups. So there's all different paths being pursued at the moment.

[11:35:00] OK, Rachel, we'll see what happens next week. It's going to be interesting. We'll be back after this short break. Do stay with CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KINKADE: Welcome back. Investigation that you'll see only on CNN. The demand for pet cheetahs is driving the big cast to the brink of extinction. Our Jomana Karadsheh traveled to the main thoroughfare of cheetah trafficking in east Africa and filed this exclusive report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barely a couple of weeks old, Goalless is clearly in desperate need of his mother. But this orphan cheetah is one of the lucky ones, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Across the Horn of Africa, if the mothers aren't killed, the cubs are snatched from them, smuggled in cramped crates and cardboard boxes. By the time they get to the shelter, they're barely alive.

According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, some 300 cubs are smuggled out of this region every year. And for everyone that makes it into captivity, another three die on the way.

(on camera): That valley down there is becoming known as the cheetah supermarket. That's because many of the trafficked cheetahs are being smuggled across this porous border with Ethiopia into Somaliland.

(voice-over): This breakaway state from Somalia is the main transit route for the traffic cats out of the Horn of Africa. Smuggled across the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Peninsula. The survivors of the rough journey become an exotic accessory like designer bling. As rich Gulf Arabs compete for social media clicks.

At least 1,000 cheetahs are estimated to be in private hands and Gulf states. According to experts, most die within a year or two in captivity. Although private ownership and trading of wildlife is banned in most Gulf states, enforcement is lax.

(on camera): Illegal online sales are starting to be policed. But if you really want a cheetah, they're not hard to find. This is an online Saudi marketplace, and when we search for cheetahs, several listings came up some advertising two to three old Cheetos, other selling young cubs.

(voice-over): This man in Saudi Arabia is eager to sell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (translation text): Whatever cheetah you want. You want male, you want female, it's not an issue. From Africa we import through a website with a guy and we have another Saudi trader. I got more than 80 from them.

KARADSHEH: $6,600 U.S. seems to be the starting online price in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government did not respond to CNN's repeated requests for comment. There are only 7,500 cheetahs left worldwide, half the number from just a decade ago.

LAURIE MARKER, FOUNDER, CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND: People who have a cheetah as a pet are causing the species to go extinct. It's leading the way towards extinction. Mr. Bottle is one of the favorite toys that we found.

KARADSHEH: American biologist Laurie Marker and her Cheetah Conservation Fund are racing to save this species from extinction.

[11:41:00] MARKER: This is not how a baby cheetah should be living. They need to be living out in the wild.

KARADSHEH: They set up this safe house in Somaliland for the rescues. It's bursting at the seams.

MARKER: Seeing them in here, it breaks my heart.

KARADSHEH: You can see why people call them cats that cry.

MARKER: It's our responsibility to give them the very best care that they can have and to try to save every single one of them.

KARADSHEH: 10-month-old Kitty is in intensive care. The last survivor of three sisters.

MARKER: She is not one of our healthiest cats. And it probably does have a lot to do with the way she started in life.

KARADSHEH: Despite the team's efforts, Kitty didn't make it.

MARKER: These animals are a smaller population, very rare population. And from that, each one of them do carry a different genetic code.

This one is a male.

KARADSHEH: Every club gets microchipped. Their DNA is recorded. Without a mother that has to be taught how to hunt and survive in the wild.

MARKER: It takes sometimes months to try to get one cheetah to get on its feet.

KARADSHEH: Neju Jimmy, a soon to be vet is their main caregiver.

NEJU JIMMY, STUDENT VETERINARIAN: I love them so much that I don't even see my mom once a week. She lives over there.

KARADSHEH: According to Marker, there are only about 300 adults in unprotected areas in the Horn of Africa.

MARKER: If you do your math, the math kind of shows that it's only going to be a matter of a couple years that we're not going to have any cheetahs in this region left.

KARADSHEH: Many have already been lost to conflict with humans. Somaliland wildlife authorities are busting traffickers. It's illegal here along with private ownership. But in the capital, Hargeisa, a popular restaurant advertises burgers and captive lions pacing in the background for selfies. For three years, this cheetah on a short rope has been the star attraction for paying clients to pet, poke, and pose with. The owner insists it's legal.

ABDIRASHIQ ALI MOHAMED, OWNER, LION RESTAURANT: Yes, we have the license to keep these animals. And plus, this guy, he's -- there's only one cheetah here, and he has lot of space to run around.

KARADSHEH: Why it was tolerated in plain sight went unanswered by the authorities. More are hidden behind walls.

(on camera): Even as we're leaving Somaliland, two more cheetahs have been confiscated from a house here in Hargeisa.

(voice-over): Three more were seized just a few days later. As long as there's a demand by the rich, creating a lucrative trade for the poor, the cheetah's future hangs in the balance. Time is not on their side.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Hargeisa, Somaliland.


Well that was CONNECT THE WORLD. I am Lynda Kinkade. Thanks for watching. WORLD SPORT is next.

[11:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)