Dubai: A young monkey, believed to be a baboon, was spotted running between parked cars at a petrol station in Silicon Oasis on Tuesday after it slipped away from its handler as he cleaned up droppings from the boot of his car where the primate was kept.
The monkey was caught quickly and placed in the boot of another car where two men stood waiting.
A.J., a Briton living in the UAE for six years, witnessed the scene as he filled petrol in his car and alerted the Al Ameen Dubai police tip-off service and Gulf News.
"I saw this man take the monkey by the scruff of the neck to clean up some mess in the back. I asked them what they were doing. The man laughed and told me the baboon was two months old," said AJ, who asked not be identified. "There was no cage. The monkey was just dumped in the boot. There was a bowl of water and some sunflower seeds."
According to Paul Vercammen, operations manager at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife at Sharjah Desert Park, there is currently a big influx of baboons entering the country illegally.
In the last six months, around 25 young baboons ages six months to three years have been confiscated or picked up by the team at the Breeding Centre.
"We have an idea that they are coming from the region between Yemen and Saudi Arabia after carrying out genetic testing," said Vercammen.
"Not just one or two but in their twenties and fifties. Someone is selling them ‘under the table'. They're all babies but they get bigger and they start to bite. People are not educated and let them run around the garden until the monkey suddenly doesn't come back in."
Permits are rarely issued for private possession of primates, said Vercammen. Keeping a monkey in the boot of your car, from an animal welfare point of view, is not legal, he added. "It's asking for trouble," he said.
Sharjah Police attended a seminar at the Breeding Centre this week on the scope of the problem of wild animals being kept and sold by members of the public. In the next few weeks a campaign will be rolled out at Sharjah Birds and Animal Market and in veterinary centres on the perils of keeping baboons as pets.
Some of the seized baboons will be euthanised because of behavioural and physical problems like deformities or aggression. The healthy ones will be introduced to the group at the centre. "We have integrated two so far and another two are being prepared but we simply don't have room for them all," said Paul Vercammen, operations manager at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife at Sharjah Desert Park.
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