Wild animals do not, under any circumstances, make good pets. It is impossible to provide them the same environment as their natural habitats, thus putting the onus on the owners to take into consideration factors like habitation, temperature, light, food and water. Instead of adapting to their locale, wild animals are a threat to the communities in which they are kept captive. This is not just from a security point of view (where owners are not professionally trained to ensure their welfare), but also from a health aspect. The threat of passing on rare diseases to humans always exists.

Of late, there have been quite a few startling reports highlighting illegal animal trade with a view towards keeping them as pets at home. Keeping exotic pets, like primates, lion cubs and iguanas has become common. Statistics illustrate that the UAE legally imported 10,000 royal snakes and issued four times the permits issued in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries to import big cats like tigers, cheetahs, lions and leopards between 2007 and 2010.

These illegal and dangerous transactions must be curbed without hesitation. The UAE is an active campaigner against the export and import of banned flora and fauna. It is a valued member of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species). There is a federal law that states the country’s position in this respect. There are also tough punitive measures in place to control the actions of those who flout this law.

The Ministry of Environment and Water must ensure that it plays an active role in halting such kind of illegal activities across the country. It must be emphasised, however, that awareness and education about this problem is vital.

The problem does not lie with the animals as much as it does with human beings.