Clampdown on illegal animal sales

Leopards, panthers, bears and monkeys smuggled into UAE

UAE residents have been warned they face a fine of up to Dhs50,000 and six months in jail if they flout laws on selling and owning endangered species.

The warning from the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) comes just weeks after a UAE man was arrested at Bangkok International Airport after his suitcases were found to be filled with endangered animals.

The animals, which included baby leopards, panthers, a bear and monkeys, had been drugged and were bound for Dubai, anti-trafficking group FREELAND Foundation said on its website in May.

That case followed media reports citing a tiger was spotted leaning out of the passenger car window of a blacked-out Dubai vehicle as it drove past the Mall of the Emirates.

Abdulrab Al Hemari, deputy manager, CITES Scientific Authority at EAD, said: "Unfortunately, keeping exotic animals in the UAE has become something of a status symbol. The solution to this issue is not only through enforcement of the law but through education.

"People need to understand the consequences of buying wildlife illegally. For every cheetah cub or baby monkey, there is normally a protective mother which has been cruelly slaughtered."

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary general of EAD, added: "The UAE is a nation of animal lovers. Certain species are intrinsically linked to our natural heritage and this is something of which we should be rightfully proud.

"However, we need to understand that there are clear laws in place about how one can own wild and endangered animals and in what circumstances, for the sake of the animal, its human handler and the broader community too."

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