For almost two decades, activists in the United Arab Emirates have been fighting the flow of endangered species into the country, kept by wealthy residents as status symbols.
"After 17 years of fighting to stop the illegal import and keeping of endangered wildlife as pets, I still see people illegally owning them," Ronel Barcellos, Abu Dhabi Wildlife Center director, recently told Gulf News.
Legislators in UAE have enacted barriers to prevent the import of endangered animals into the country. Enforcement of these laws, however, is lax. In 2012, the country saw increasing numbers of tigers and lions in private ownership, as well as an increase in permits, as dictated by law under the Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). But many big cats are without papers in practice, Peter Jaworski, a veterinarian in Dubai, told The National. Young cubs, moreover, are often improperly cared for, leading to risks for both cat and owner. "When you get a lion, legally or illegally, the poor animal is condemned to death," Jaworski said.