Dubai Live white apes in ventilated plywood compartments built into a suitcase, an anaesthetised falcon wrapped in white cloth and a dead crocodile stuffed into a bag – these were some of the audacious attempts to bring exotic animals and endangered species into Dubai last year, a top customs official told XPRESS.
Feryal Tawakul, Executive Director of Community Affairs and Government Partnership at Dubai Customs, said passengers brazenly smuggle prohibited items with scant regard of the law, with dead exotic animals comprising the largest percentage of seized flora and fauna last year, followed by ivory and live endangered species.
The manner in which the white apes were brought in was shocking ... How did the passenger think he could get away with something like that?
“The manner in which the white apes were brought in was shocking. The suitcase had carefully crafted plywood compartments with holes in them so that the animals could breathe. How did the passenger think he could get away with something like that?” she wondered.
Feryal said as many as 19,422 restricted flora and fauna were caught at the Dubai airport last year and were referred to the Ministry of Environment and Water. “The figure for the first quarter of 2012 is 5,490. But a majority of them were released as they had due permits.”
She said 35 seizures in 2011 were classified under CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as against 69 in 2010. An international agreement between countries, CITES aims at stemming the illegal trade of endangered species. The CITES seizures included 18 dead exotic animals, three ivory consignments, three live endangered species, two deer corn and three consignments of handicraft, oudh and oudh wood.
Most of the smugglers (32) were male and in the 36-45 age bracket.
Feryal said: “The most common method of smuggling is through checked-in luggage. There were 21 such cases in 2011, as against 50 in 2010. There were six cases where passengers brought them in cartons, five in handbags, two in mails and one on their person. Fortunately, our inspectors are well-trained to detect such prohibited items.”
All confiscated animals and plants are sent to the Ministry of Environment and Water which deals which them with due procedure, she said. Under Article 145, smuggling of prohibited goods incurs a fine not less than the value of the goods but not more than three times the value, a six month to three year prison term or both.
Feryal said most consignments come from South and mid-Americas, Africa and Asia, and are headed towards North America, Europe and Far East. There are also cases of end-users within the UAE.
She said some people bring certain kinds of restricted animals and plants for end-use in the UAE after obtaining legal permits from regulatory bodies. “But it is not a good idea to turn a wild animal into a pet. Not only do they belong to their wild habitats but their collection as pets is pushing such species into the endangered species list and closer to extinction. It is important that we protect these animals and plants to maintain the balance of nature,” she said.