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Lions and cheetah kept in one bedroom flat

Ever woken up in the night to strange sounds? Do your neighbours listen to the Animal Channel too loud? Ever considered that it might not actually be the TV?

  • Wild cats in UAE flat
    Five lion cubs and a cheetah are being kept in a flat until they get moved to a farm. Image Credit: Rangarajan/Gulf News
  • Wild cats in UAE flat
    The animals have been brought from Africa and Oman and will be relocated to a farm. Image Credit:Rangarajan/Gulf News
  • Wild cats in UAE flat
    The animals, which are not for sale, have keepers with them 24 hours a day. Image Credit:Rangarajan/Gulf News
  • Wild cats in UAE flat
    The lions eat a lot and get very hungry. The owner says they are fed one sheep a day. Image Credit:Rangarajan/Gulf News
Gulf News


Dubai: Ever woken up in the night to strange sounds? Do your neighbours listen to the Animal Channel too loud? Ever considered that it might not actually be the TV?

Five lion cubs and a cheetah are being kept in a family flat in the northern emirates until they get moved to a farm.

According to the owner who asked to remain anonymous, the animals have been brought in from Africa and Oman and will only spend two weeks in the residential one bedroom home until they are relocated to a bigger space on a private farm.

The flat houses at least five lions two males and three lionesses, one cheetah; a number of turtles and according to neighbours a hyena has also been spotted. The animals have keepers with them 24 hours a day.

The owner and his family live in a separate flat and the owner said his three year-old child often played with the cubs and that they are not dangerous. "My children like them very much, they are fine together," he said.

He said the big cats were not for sale. "From childhood I have loved animals and I have always collected them. I cannot sell them and it is very difficult to find buyers anyway. I keep them for myself," he said, unable to tell Gulf News how much a cub costs.

One of the keepers, from Nepal, said the cubs are up to a year old. The big cats have had their claws removed and their teeth have been filed down.

Mira, a 6 month lioness is the smallest of the pack and is frequently taken for walks on a leash around the first floor of the building.

The lions are all together in one room. Two lions are usually kept inside individual cages and two other lionesses are attached to the outside of the cage, while the youngest is left to walk freely around the flat. A cheetah was seen by Gulf News in a separate cage in the same room.

The cubs, although used to their owners, became uneasy and growled as photographs were taken. "Be careful, they can drag the cages," said the second keeper, from Pakistan.

The lions eat a lot and get very hungry. The owner said he feeds them one sheep everyday.

'Nobody should have big cats as pets'

Lion cubs in the wild are naturally weaned off their mother's milk after 6 months, said Reza Khan, director of Dubai Zoo. Lionesses will stay with their mothers throughout their lives whereas males will leave the pack at three years old.

"In captivity like in a zoo they would get weaned off after around 3 months and will start to consume meat," he said.

He added that nobody should have big cats as pets, or any wild animals.

"You simply cannot give them proper care in a home. Here or anywhere in the world. The animals will feel detached from their environment and will form attachments with their keepers, but even these cannot ensure proper continuous care," said Khan.

"Lions are not good pets. Big cats can be harmful to society and you cannot tame a lion," added Khan.

"A lion kept in private care that has its canines removed or filed, and their claws removed it is torture!" he said. "If you remove their claws they cannot walk properly and it damages them."



Your comments

Apart from the obvious stupidity of keeping wild animals in a domestic enviroment, one has to ask what kind of veterinary surgeon would perform such cruel surgery that renders these animals unable to ever return to the wild.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

All big cats are considered endangered species. I understand the love of animals, yet love means care and keeping them in an apartment is very far from what these animals really need.

Big cats should not be kept in residential areas especially a flat as it can do harm to other residents, what if one cat escaped?

Once again the Gulf News has brought to the forefront issues concerning animal welfare. We are becoming increasingly aware of the cruelty animals face in the Middle East. It is time we take a stand and ensure that this indifference towards animal suffering is transformed. Writing about sympathy alone does not seem to bring about a positive change. Awareness among the public and authorities should be brought about by organising forums where the voice of battered animals is heard through us.

First of all, I cannot understand how the local authority allow the owner to keep these protected animals in private captivity. The Wildlife Authority should take ownership of them and move them to proper place. It is cruel, for personal reasons to cut claws and file canines.

I have no words to express my shock at the role of the authorities in this regard. How can it happen in a civilised soceity? The animals should be taken away from the owner immediately and sent to an appropriate zoo or National Park. It will be interesting to know how they were imported into the country.

Heartless is not the word. If you love someone set them free.

I think that even though the owner loves animals, it's cruel to keep animals meant for the wild all tied and locked up in a constricted space. If lions were meant to live in the climate of UAE, then there would have been lions in the UAE. These poor animals cant speak and tell us how they feel. Take them back home and let them live as they were intended to. That shows the real love for animals!

It is indeed a sad news to hear that wild cats are kept as pets and that the claws have been removed and above all their teeths have been filed! It's ridiculous and high time the concerned authorities take the necessary action and shift these wild cats back to their environment.

This is great. I would also love to have such pets as I love animals too. But it should be outside the city at your farm house, and should be kept in such a place that doesn't feel like a prison. Take care they should not harm others.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

We all should respect the fact that animals are part of the world. They should be treated fairly as human. The question of "keeping the big cats at flat?" this is absolutely not fair with them. UAE government should take strict action to protect the lives of other people who are living in that flat.

I think it is absolutly disgusting that there don't seem to be any animal rights acts in this country. In the UK we have the RSPCA (Royal Society Protection of Cruelty to Animals). They need to do something like that here. Lions are not pets they are endangered animals and should be with professionals in zoos or in the wild, not in a little flat or around little children.

I hope authorities or wildlife people do something to save these animals. The importing of wild animal by civilians MUST be banned.

The custody of big cats by people is interesting. It's really fun and should be allowed legally to have them, provided people have the basic facilities at their disposal. I long to see them.

This is not the right way to feed the animals. In fact animals get frustrated rapidily in an contained environment. But still I admire the man who has the courage to look after the wild animals as domestics. The authorities have to take necessary action to feed the animals and hopefully not take action against the man.

As a person who loves animals, I think the cubs should be shifted immediately to an appropriate place. As the readers have mentioned it is torture and inhuman to have their claws removed and teeth filed. Would any human like to have something like this done to himself? Other than this even if you raise the cubs with utmost care and love, there is always the possibility of the lions attacking someone. Ultimately I think in the best interests of both humans as well as the animals, they should be removed to an appropriate place where they can have space, independence and enjoy their freedom.

I personally think it is foolish to keep the animals in a house. If the owner believes that he really loves animals, he would surely not have caged them in a four walled area as well as removing their claws and filing their canines. This seems ridiculous! Please let them free and let them breathe and have a Life of their own!

I request the goverment to intervene in this case and set the animals free. They need to be in their own natural habitat and not caged up in a flat. Also please think about the safety of the society.

Here in India and internationally it is punishable by law, petting a wild animal or any endangered species for that case can land you in jail.

Absolutely shocking! By filing their teeth and removing their claws, this person has taken away the essence of those big cats.

I missed the part that mentioned the rather glaring-in-your-face-fact that big cats are endangered species. How did the owner get the cubs? Is there no law against such absolute disregard for animal life? What should never be forgotten is that people holding such animals for their own pleasure, is the reason that that is keeping the awful animal trade alive. One word of advice to these people, if you are indeed an animal lover: grow a brain!!

It's common sense that different beings have different habitats. Cubs do not live in flats, they belong to the wild. After all the confinement, having their teeth filed down, their claws cut off - the owner claims he loves Animals. LOVE, for these animals comes with RESPECT for them. Every fur, claw, whisker serves a purpose for the animal. It helps keep balance, sense the direction, without which the animal will feel, lost and disoriented.

If he really loved animals he would never do something like this. It's torture to the animals and selfishness (not love for animals).

This is very unnatural to keep such animals in such a small. They require very special care and environment (natural one). I am sorry to say authorities should take some real action. It does not make any sense to me.

What is the landlord doing? How can they allow this? Authorities have to step in and seize the animals. It is inhumane to torture them like this.

I honestly think that the owner should face punishment according to the animal rights law. This is no way to maintain wild animals. They were born free, with claws and teeth. Now that they have been de-clawed, you cannot set them free or even keep them in a zoo as they will not be able to fight back other cats that might attack them. By no means can large cats be kept in cages or chained the whole day in a small apartment. This is very in-humane.

It's just about loving nature and animals. Nothing is more harmful in the world than humans. I had a fox.

These types of animals should not be kept as home animals. By keeping them at home or in cage, actually we are spoiling their freedom to live in environmetal conditions and it is not fair. Should be either transfered to any zoo or let them free to some area where they can live peacefully. Also in this condition they will become more dangerous due to frustration and captivity.

How inhuman!! They are supposed to roam free in the wild but here they are in captivity with their teeth filed and claws removed. I wonder how they can even tear the flesh from their food? I feel they should be immediately freed into their natural habitat or confiscated by the zoo authorities and be given better living conditions. Aren't there any laws in the UAE that forbid people from keeping wild animals as pets?

I assume the cheetah is from Oman? These animals are endangered and there are only a hand full of Arabian Cheetahs in the world. Did the owner of the cats bring these animals through legal authorized channels or were they smuggled into the UAE?
Hani M

Please let the lions free.

Send them home! It is very cruel to 'collect' animals just because you love them. That is not reason enough to separate any animal from either its parent or its natural habitat. Just imagine if there was a race superior to ours, who liked to 'collect' humans.
Name withhald by request

I just wonder how these cubs are being brought into the UAE. If you have pet dog/cat etc and you want to bring or take out them of the country, you need proper paper work with customs.

I admire and appreciate the fact that the owner has loved animals from childhood but I feel that capturing such magnificiant animals with its teeth and claws removed is a real toture.

I think it is torture to remove its claws and file the teeth. Keeping big and wild animals in one room is unfair to them. I think it should not be allowed to keep big cats and other wild animals in a residential area especially flats as they can be harmfull to others.

Im shocked. Lions in a residential flat! perhaps the owner loves the animals more than the safety of people and of course his own child. Can the authorities take strict action against this please.

These anmimals should be moved at the earliest to an appropriate environment and any kind of tourture should be avoided.

As an animal lover and a human, it is very shocking to read the above article. It has two contrary effects such as endangering the animal's life by torture and threat to humans around it. Wild animals will always maintain their widlness in their blood and it can come out any time when provoked. The government should take proper remedies to save these speachless creatures and protect the residents.

There are international conventions against cruelty and the private keeping of endangered and wild animals of which UAE is a signatory. To keep them in a flat for even 1 day is not acceptable. The authorities should take immediate actions to correct this wrong for now and for all times in the future before the international animal welfare community intervenes.

I think the pictures are very disturbing. Big cats are known not to be good pets as we always hear of lion tamers in zoos being attacked. In a residential area it is very unsafe for the neighbours especially the children how can this even be legal in any country!