Abu Dhabi: The cheetah found on an Abu Dhabi street on Sunday proves that the menace of wildlife smuggling is like drug trafficking — however hard the governments try to stop it, the smugglers find a new way, a senior official has told Gulf News.
The owner of the cheetah has violated at least three federal laws — the law prohibiting import of dangerous animals, the law related to Cites (Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species) for illegally importing or trading endangered animals and a law on animal welfare for ill-treating the animal, Abdul Rab Al Hameri, manager of the scientific authority office of Cites in Abu Dhabi, said in an interview on Monday.
However, he clarified that his office is working on scientific research and related aspects of Cites so he was not aware of the investigations into the violations and the move to trace the owner of the cheetah.
The laws are implemented by another Cites office, the management authority of Cites, which comes under the Ministry of Environment and Water, the official said.
When contacted, a senior official at the Cites management authority office in Abu Dhabi said he would elaborate on the issue, but he remained unavailable for comments.
Al Hameri said there is a huge demand for exotic animals and plants, so the illegal wildlife trade remains the third largest illegal trade worldwide, after weapons and drugs.
Although Cites permits the trade of endangered wild animals, including big cats, subject to certain conditions, a ministerial decree prohibits import of fighting dogs, poisonous snakes and dangerous animals like big cats, he said.
Another ministerial decree prohibits import of primates into the country.
If anyone imports animals included in these two decrees illegally into the country, it becomes a violation of law related to Cites, the official said.
As Gulf News reported the 2002 Federal Law number 11 on Regulating and Controlling International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (including big cats) prohibits the sale or display of the creatures in public, without the necessary legal paperwork.
Offenders could face fines of between Dh5,000 and Dh50,000 and a jail term ranging between three and six months.
Apart from the above mentioned two laws, the owner of the cheetah has violated the ministerial decision number 384 of 2008 on the executive bylaw of the federal law number 16 of 2007 concerning animal welfare.
Since the law prohibits ill-treating animals, the owner of the injured cheetah shall be punished with a fine of up to Dh20,000.
The official said the offenders are referred to the court by the Cites management authority.
The Cites scientific authority office in Abu Dhabi issues about 1,000 to 1,200 certificates a year for importing exotic animals and plants into the UAE, Abdul Rab Al Hameri, manager of the Cites office, told Gulf News.
The certificates are issued mostly for importing falcons, parrots, some sort of corals etc, he said.
The importer should get permission from the country of origin of animal or plants, Al Hameri said.
"But that is not enough. Even if they have permission from the foreign country but the UAE law prohibits the import, we don't issue the permit," he commented.
"For example, import of poisonous snakes and dangerous animals are prohibited under the UAE law.
"And primates can be imported only for scientific research," the official explained.