By Binsal Abdul Kader
Abu Dhabi: Many UAE residents still keep endangered animals as pets, violating laws against this practice.
“After 17 years of fighting to stop the illegal import and keeping of endangered wildlife as pets, I still see people illegally owning them,” a prominent wildlife activist in Abu Dhabi says.
There are many people who keep endangered species in villas and farms all over the UAE, says Ronel Barcellos, manager of Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre (ADWC) that rescues and rehabilitates wild animals being illegally imported into the country. Most of these animals are kept in inadequate housing conditions, exposed to high temperatures during summer months and many of these die due to malnutrition, stress and disease. Endangered species belong in the wild, she says, where they can contribute to their species by breeding naturally to contribute to the survival of their species.
“There are laws in place to protect the animals but I don’t believe they are enforced adequately,” she says. “I would like to see the government enforce the law more strictly when it comes to illegal import of endangered species,” she said. “Worldwide, we are losing animals in their natural environment at an alarming rate.”
Penalties, such as fines, are not enough to deter people from breaking the law, she says, as large sums of money are already being paid to buy endangered animals.
Ports of entry should have stricter rules and officers needs to be able to identify species that are on the endangered list.
“I believe wholeheartedly that educating children to love and protect our planet’s wildlife is essential to ensure its survival,” Barcellos said.