Harry sits on the weighing scale. The baby Nile crocodile is fed on alternate days a mixture of minced beef and chicken. Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News

Dubai: A baby Nile crocodile smuggled to the UAE and bought without permits by Gulf News during an undercover investigation on the rampant and lucrative illegal animal trade in the UAE, has died.

Read special coverage of the UAE's illegal animal trade

Nicknamed Harry, the reptile measured 25 centimetres when he was bought from a pet shop in Sharjah in December 2009. After just two visits to the Sharjah animal and birds market a salesman secretly handed over Harry for Dh450. Fully grown Nile crocodiles can grow to more than 5 metres and are deadly predators. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of animal cruelty and illegal trading.

Archived video of Harry the crocodile:



Dr Reza Khan, wildlife consultant at Dubai Zoo, said the crocodile being smuggled as a baby with nothing known of his origins made Harry a difficult animal to keep in captivity, and worse still as a pet.

He was handed over to Dubai Zoo and kept in a terrarium where he died this month despite receiving 24-hour care. He did not eat and when force-fed, would regurgitate the morsels of meat given to him, said Khan.


"It is not good news that Harry has died and we are very sorry, but it is quite common for smuggled animals not to survive," said Khan. He added that a shipment of 10 baboons intercepted by Dubai Municipality has just arrived at the zoo. "What are we supposed to do with them? We'll try to exchange them with other zoos but smuggled animals are the biggest headache for Dubai Zoo," said Khan.

In his 22 years as zoo director and now consultant Khan said of the animals on display, only three baby caracal cats were bought. All other animals in the zoo have come from smugglers, or been donated by residents.

Harry is one of many species sold in pet shops and animal markets without permits or health certificates. In April a truck coming through the Ghuweifat border was raided after customs officials noticed strange sounds coming from the vehicle and uncovered 42 baboons that would have been smuggled into the country from Saudi Arabia. In Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, 15 baboons and two striped hyenas were found in a residential home and seized by the authorities.

Gulf News uncovered the sale of two lion cubs masterminded by event organisers, vets and traders from Egypt. This is still being investigated by the Ministry of Environment and Water. However, the sale of lions and cheetahs continues to be freely advertised on classified websites in the UAE and in most cases the animals are smuggled on order. The list of animals made available to buyers here include not only snakes and leopards but also dogs banned here.

Some vets Gulf News spoke to frequently see dogs that have been used for dog fights but they are do not report this to the authorities, a violation of the law. At some attractions like Big Red on the Hatta road, horses are left out in the heat 24 hours a day and baboons languish in bare metal cages to the dismay of tourists and residents. Helen from Dubai, a 31-year-resident of the UAE, said two baboons were left tied to a pole but had recently been moved to a cage with no food or water in sight.

Have you ever been offered an exotic animal? What would you do if you were given one? Do you know of places in the UAE that sell these animals?