Emirati animal activist Afra Al Dhaheri with baby baboon Kenneth at her pet Hotel Cloud9 in Khalifa City Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A baby baboon which was sold on Instagram has found a new home in Al Ain Zoo.

Kenneth was barely one month old when it was put up for sale on the Facebook photo-sharing app where it caught the attention of a teen in Abu Dhabi. The 15-year-old boy contacted the seller and bought the animal for Dh3,500.

However, within days the child regretted his decision. Looking after an infant monkey was not only difficult but also costly and time-consuming.

Fortunately, the teen’s mother met Abu Dhabi-based Emirati animal activist Afra Al Dhaheri, 30, who took the baboon to her pet hotel Cloud9 located in Khalifa City.

“Kenneth was malnourished and sick when I saw him. I immediately decided to take him under my care. So I paid the woman the same amount her son had spent on the animal and brought the baboon to Cloud9. He needed as much care as a human baby, if not more. There were days when I would wake up in the middle of the night to change his diapers,” Afra recalled.

Favorite pet

Five months on, Kenneth now weighs a healthy four kilograms. “He is such a darling. Everybody loves him at Cloud9 so much so that he’s the favourite pet of the staff.

“I didn’t want to part with Kenneth but then I realised he’d be better off in a zoo,” said Arfa “I contacted several zoos and shelters but they were reluctant to take Kenneth because he didn’t have any documentation. Finally, Al Ain Zoo called last week and took him in,” she added.

Arfa said that while she was glad that Kenneth had found a new home, she was upset over the illegal trade of animals in the country.

“It’s shocking that a 15-year-old was able to buy a baboon over Instagram,” said Arfa. She talks about animal rights and protection on an application called YOUNOW on which has around 200,000 followers.

The Federal Law No 22 regulates the possession, trade and breeding of dangerous animals in the country. It states that only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses and breeding and research centres are allowed to keep wild or exotic animals. Arfa said the law should be implemented strictly to curb the illegal sale of animals in the UAE. “I routinely come across animals including lion cubs being sold on Instagram. It’s appalling,” she said.

Instagram crackdown

Last month Instagram began singling out hashtags like #SlothSelfie and #koalaSelfie, alerting users with pop-up messages that exotic animals appearing in tourist photo-ops are often subjected to abuse. From now on, Instagram searches for hashtags like #TigerSelfie will get a pop-up warning that the keywords “may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behaviour to animals or the environment,” Instagram said in a blog.


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