Sharjah: Residents near the Radisson SAS Hotel were shocked on Tuesday when they spotted a cheetah roaming the streets.
According to eyewitnesses, the cheetah was first seen swimming in Khalid Port, and then jumped out of the water and on to the shore. At first, pedestrians thought it was just a dog but much to their shock, they realised that it was a cheetah.
"I was walking in the area when a group of men started shouting in Arabic that they saw a tiger. I thought it was a joke, but then soon enough I saw the cheetah walking on the street," said Umair Ahmad, a resident.
"The animal was not running but walking very slowly, and then it stood in front of the mosque as if it was guarding it. I was scared but also very curious to see what would happen to it," he said.
Sharjah Police have already launched an investigation to find the whereabouts of the cheetah's owner.
Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Bin Darwish, Head of the Anjad traffic patrol section, said that the Central Operations Room at Sharjah Police received a call from a concerned resident notifying the authorities about the cheetah on the loose.
"A team of emergency and criminal investigators was immediately despatched to the scene, to control the situation and to prevent the cheetah from harming the public," said Lieutenant Colonel Bin Darwish.
Police patrols also rushed to cordon off the area, where they found the cheetah sitting calmly next to the mosque.
"The cheetah was believed to be about two years old and seemed quite tame. So we suspect that it was kept as a pet in a residential home nearby, and then managed to escape."
Sharjah Police then kept the animal under supervision until authorities from the Environment and Protection Authority in Sharjah arrived to take the animal away.
Wild animals as pets
The UAE law does not allow wild and protected animals such as cheetahs to be kept as pets.
According to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) cheetahs are listed in appendix 1.
CITES, an international agreement between governments, aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The UAE gained accession to CITES in 1990.
Appendix 1 species like lions are rare or endangered. Trade in these species for primarily commercial purposes is prohibited. As a result, Appendix 1 species must be accompanied by a CITES export permit issued by the exporting country and a CITES import permit issued by the importing country.
Appendix 2 species are neither rare nor endangered at present, but could become so if trade is not regulated. The species in Appendix 2 must be accompanied by an appropriate CITES export permit issued by the exporting country before entry to the importing country will be allowed.
Courtesy: Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora