Saturday, February 21, 2015

Veterinarians Demand Stricter Action for Exotic Wild Animal Trade in Dubai

A young serval cat whose picture was sent by TM Exotics to possible customers.

Veterinarians in the United Arab Emirates have recently called for a strict new law established in the emirate of Sharjah that outlaws the trade of exotic wild animals to be simulated and tightly imposed in Dubai. The prohibition on breeding and owning exotic wildlife came into force in November last year in Sharjah after a proclamation made by the emirate's ruler Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi. The law dictates that anyone found to be breeding or in possession of exotic animals can face a fine of up to Dh100,000 and the animals confiscated. According to Dr. Ulrich Wernery, scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai, implementing stricter local rules and severe fines would help deal with the problem and also discourage people from purchasing exotic animals online. This is especially essential in the case of a Thailand-based breeder known as TM Exotics which is offering cheetah cubs for sale for Dh7,700 via its Facebook community page. In addition, the company is also selling young serval cats from Africa for as little as Dh5,500 or Dh10,280 a pair. According to the company's website, the animals are microchipped, immunized, and dewormed. The company further added that shipping the animals abroad was "not considered a problem." The U.A.E is a signer of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) which means exotic animals can be traded only with legitimate filing. Although the commercial trade in serval cats and their New World relatives, the ocelots, is permitted, it is not so in the case of cheetahs. The reason is because cheetahs fall into the CITES' Appendix I, which includes animals that are threatened with extinction. A report presented to CITES by Kuwait last July indicated that the U.A.E seized 32 cheetahs and four cheetah skins from smugglers between 2007 and 2013. The most recent seizure was made in the first half of 2014 when eleven cheetahs were confiscated at the Ghweifat border checkpoint with Saudi Arabia. In addition to cheetahs, the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) seized four wolves from a house in Al Sabkha early this year after agents received complaints from residents. Dr. Zoe Hamilton of Vienna Vets in Umm Suqeim indicated that animal welfare laws need to be enforced, stressing that a lot of wild animals are always sick and malnourished. Furthermore, potential owners of such animals lack the knowledge in taking care of them and demand that their so-called "pets" be declawed and have their teeth removed.
Cheetahs are also targeted as exotic pets to potential buyers, despite being labeled under Appendix I.

It is highly crucial to enforce strict laws against the exotic pet trade, especially when it comes to potentially dangerous animals that are victims of such a lucrative market. Among the animals most affected by the exotic pet trade in the U.A.E are cheetahs. These animals are estimated comprise of about 7,500 individuals remaining in the wild and are named on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable to extinction. They are also much larger and more dangerous than their smaller cousins, servals and ocelots, making them extremely difficult to maintain. In addition, serval cats and ocelots are also wild animals by heart and are likely to inflict serious injuries to their potential owners even though they are labeled as "Least Concerned." Instead of importing cheetahs and other exotic animals for the purpose of pet ownership, there should be a great deal of focus on the conservation of these animals. Cheetahs are ideal animals for such projects in an effort to reintroduce them into the wild. The Asiatic cheetah is one of the most critically endangered of all cheetah subspecies that is now restricted to the wilds of Iran. The population of this cheetah is estimated to be 40 to 70 individuals, with vehicular accidents accounting for 40 percent of deaths. Efforts to halt the construction of a road that cuts through the center of the country's Bafq Protected Area were failed. This is why it is extremely crucial that Iran should join forces with other countries like the U.A.E in order to help revive its cheetah population from further depletion. Exotic pet ownership deprives all wild animals, including endangered species, of their freedom and should never be encouraged by any means.

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