Dubai/ Abu Dhabi/ Fujairah: Survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle - do we have the right to change it?

Thousands of species living in their natural habitats have to fend off danger for themselves, and some have even become extinct as they were unable to fight off predators.

In order to preserve wild animals, establishments have taken the responsibility in nurturing them so that they can breed and flourish. However, some commercial establishments are keeping certain animals only for entertainment purposes in drawing a crowd.

In a recent Gulf News poll, 63 per cent of respondents agreed that the captured whale shark at Atlantis Hotel should be set free, 14 per cent disagreed and 22 per cent said they do not care.

City Talk took to the streets and asked residents if they are concerned about wild animals being kept in captivity purely for commercial or entertainment purposes. Should the authorities interfere and put a stop to the practice?

Andrew Chopra, delegate sales from India, 25, said: "I am an animal lover and believe that animals should be in the wild and it is wrong to keep them in cages. Animals should be left in open spaces, like in their natural habitat. The authorities should interfere if companies want to use the animals for commercial reasons, and should impose strict rules so that the wild animals can live in a home that is similar to their natural habitat."

Maribeth Solana, Filipina waitress, 32, said: "It is OK as long as they are kept in their natural environment. They should not be kept in tight spaces, like cages, and should have the spaces to move freely. In other countries, exotic fish are kept in the sea and people can still look at them through a glass tunnel. It is not bad to keep animals if they are looked after safely."

Ali Awad Albadi, Member of the Arabian Saluki Centre, UAE national, said: "It will just result in keeping the animal lonely and depressed. The government should interfere with illegal smuggling of wild animals and place strict restrictions on wild animals being sold in pet shops. They are not meant to be sold or treated as a pet, they are meant to live a free life and should be left alone."

Arriane Villanueva-Intal, marketing executive, Philippines, 23, said: "They should be left in the wild. We have to protect their rights and understand that they also have feelings. It is fine to keep animals in captivity for educational purposes, as long as they are kept in their natural environment. But it is wrong to keep them for commercial reasons."

Abdul Raheem Ahmad, 67, Palestinian shop in-charge, said: "Freedom is a sacred right not only of human beings but also of animals, and many people often forget that. All religions preach that we should be humane towards animals, but how many of us follow those ideals. I think there is a big role for the relevant authorities and animal groups to play in educating the masses about nature but we as individuals also need to play a role in fighting ignorance and greed which imprisons wild animals and causes harm to the wildlife."

Sumaya Viethen, Personal Assistant at the Arabian Saluki Centre, said: "Wild is wild, why should you call them wild animals if you're going to treat them otherwise? They are not pets. I am not a big supporter of zoos but I do believe there should be more wild life centres that home these animals and have enough facilities and space for them. Wild animals should also be treated in a specific way and be kept close by to their own breed/circle. Do not capture these animals from the wild life and put them behind bars, which is my message to the authorities. They should be kept in safe centres that are familiar with the wild."

Mylene D Cedillo, 29, Filipina office assistant, said: "I think animals should be left alone in their natural habitat and not exploited for commercial or entertainment purposes. Animal protection groups and the authorities should work together to limit such inhumane behaviour and to educate people about the issues of animal care. If there are situations in which owners can assure the relevant authorities of their capability to provide full and proper care to an animal, which otherwise may struggle in the wild, then may be that is OK. Many homeowners who keep exotic animals as pets are also guilty of the same inhumane treatment and they should reconsider their actions."