|The cheetah is one of several animals illegally sold in U.A.E as pets|
Abu Dhabi is known to be one of most the richest cities in the world. The capital city of the U.A.E is famous for being the major center of commercial and cultural activities, as well as industrial and political. Like its sister emirate Dubai, Abu Dhabi is known for its luxurious hotels, upscale restaurants, and a thumping nightlife. But this bustling metropolis has a dark side. In June 2010, authorities seized fifteen cheetahs, fifteen baboons, and two striped hyenas illegally owned by the city's residents. In spite of a federal law enforcing punishments of fining 50,000 dirham and six months imprisonment of illegally purchasing, selling, and even sheltering endangered species, the numbers of such ownership are still on the rise.
|A Hamadryas baboon in captivity|
An annual report sent by the U.A.E to CITES last year showed that 313 animals and birds, considered most endangered and at risk of extinction, were found in the city. They included 128 tortoises, 65 falcons (including two Saker falcons), 71 parrots, 38 houbara bustards (found dead), five monkeys and five bush babies, and one Hamadryas baboon. According to Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary general of Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency (EAD), many people do not realize that the illegal wildlife trade is one of the major causes of species extinction. The EAD is now working on the report with full figures for 2010 to be released later this year. Deputy manager of CITES Scientific Authority at EAD Abdulrab Al Hemari pointed out that keeping of such exotic pets in U.A.E has become something of a status symbol. He further added that the solution to this issue should be through education, as well as law enforcement, and many animals carry zoonotic diseases which can easily spread to humans.
|A houbara bustard|
This article, in my opinion, gives a clear representation about the dangers of the illegal wildlife trade in Abu Dhabi. Several endangered species are being illegally sold as pets to local residents, who see them as symbols of their status. They include beautiful animals like the cheetah, which was once a favorite pet among emperors thousands of years ago. But now, it is a different story. Rather than running wild in its natural habitat, the cheetah has found itself confined inside a local residency deep in the concrete jungles of Abu Dhabi. In addition to that, the houbara bustard used to be a favorite target for Arab falconers who used to hunt it for its meat which was valued as an aphrodisiac. Now, it faces a new threat of illegal pet ownership. Ironically, falcons, which were used as hunting companions in the past, meet the same fate as their prey. The impact of the illegal wildlife trade in Abu Dhabi not only threatens the lives of animals, but people too. According to Mr. Al Hemari, neither the buyer nor a seller can be sure whether an animal has been professionally health-checked or not. This, in turn, puts people in the danger of diseases like monkeypox. This is why I believe it is crucial for the U.A.E to raise public awareness about the dangers of the illegal wildlife trade through education. If this illicit business continues to flourish, it would have an impact on the city so great that it will affect its foreign relations with other nations as well as domestic relations.
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