Dubai: How about a cheetah for a pet?
That's what an unknown owner showed when he walked around with the world's fastest animal on a leash at the Dubai Media City on Wednesday evening.
The sight of the big cat prancing around caused a commotion among people who spotted it outside the OSN Showtime building, just after 6pm.
"The cheetah was walking about the parking lot for about 20 minutes, being held on a leash by a man who was keen to show it off," said Jane, an expatriate who works at the Media City. Many onlookers on their way home, double-parked their vehicles to have a closer look at the surreal spectacle.
"Initially, I thought there was an accident. When they realised what was going on, people started crowding around. Where in your life can you ever have a cheetah for a pet? It was beautiful — too docile. It seemed very domesticated. I saw people petting it," said Jane, who took pictures of the animal.
"But when a car jam-braked nearby, the animal got agitated and restless."
After a while, the owner just picked it up and put it inside his white Porsche Cayenne.
Dr Reza Khan, an expert at the Dubai Zoo, has identified the animal as a sub-adult African cheetah, probably less than 12 months old. He wondered how the cheetah, an endangered species, landed in private hands in Dubai.
"Cheetah is on the list of endangered animals as per IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List and in Cites (Convention on the International Trade of Endagered Specicies) Appendix I," he said.
"So, it cannot be traded and procured from any country without a Cites permit," said Dr Khan, a member of IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas.
"No wild animal should be kept on leash and be walked through public places. Wild cats are dangerous to the public … Wildlife is always best in its natural habitats, not in human company," he said.
Cheetah is considered to be a dying breed of cat because almost all the cheetahs alive today have come out of a small gene pool and through too much in-breeding.
As a species, its genetic base is too narrow and few survive in nature.