Dubai Following a recent spate of sightings of sensational exotic animals in residential neighbourhoods, government legislators are poised to put an end to an animal trade reportedly worth billions in the UAE.

Legislators in Abu Dhabi said on Tuesday they are weighing a draft law over and above existing laws “to prevent” domestication of endangered species, making endangered exotic pet ownership illegal.

Baboon in Garden City

From sightings of a baboon in Garden City earlier this year to a chimpanzee frolicking on the beach to pictures posted online of a lion hanging out of a car window in Jumeirah, there is no shortage of wild pets it would seem in the UAE.

Questionable pet ownership may be growing despite stern warnings last year by the UAE government of Dh50,000 fines and up to six months’ imprisonment.

Earlier this week, at a meeting of the Ministerial Council for Services, chaired by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, council members gave clear instructions.

Prevalent practice

“The spreading practice of possessing wild animals and predators as pets and growing them in households also came up for discussion at the Council’s meeting,” WAM reported.

“The Council has given directives to the Ministry of Environment to draft necessary laws to prevent this practice.”

The Environment Ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement issued after August 2011 warnings by the federal government, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), said people who illegally buy exotic animals are unwittingly contributing to the decline of some species.

“What many of us don’t realise is that the illegal wildlife trade is one of the main causes of species extinction in the wild. So while people often buy these animals as a result of their appreciation for their beauty and character, they are in fact threatening the future of the species,” Al Mubarak said on the EAD website.

 'Acts of a few'

“This means that the acts of a few are in danger of denying our future generations the chance to appreciate the value of these beautiful animals too.”

As a signatory in 1990 to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the UAE enacted Federal Law No. 11 2002 to regulate animal trade and tasked enforcement to Ministry of Environment and Water.

The CITES treaty prohibits endangered animals designated as “Appendix I” from being exported from native countries unless the move is to help in science or conservation efforts.

The EAD said a report was issued by the UAE in 2010 to CITES listing the number of endangered Appendix I animals discovered in 2009.

The list included, according to EAD, 38 Houbara Bustards found dead, 65 falcons (including two large Saker Falcons), 128 tortoises, 71 parrots, five monkeys, five bush babies (small nocturnal primates) and a Silvery Baboon.