According to a recent poll by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), nearly 800 live animals, many endangered, were being marketed for private sale in Internet classifieds. The UAE banned the import of many endangered species in 2012, and keeping wild animals as pets has been prohibited even longer. Still, enforcement is a major issue. Wildlife advocates say this is because the UAE has yet to ban the sale of wild animals entirely, which allows illegal trade to flourish. According to Elsayed Mohamed, "We need legislation here to control and regulate ownership of wild animals," Mohamed told The National. "[Current] legislation will not prevent totally sales of cheetahs [and other big cats] because there is captive breeding here.... If you see a cheetah here it will have either been imported before the legislation, or secondly it may have been captive-bred here or thirdly it may have been smuggled in."
In addition to tougher regulations for rare species ownership, IFAW also advocates for educating the public about how to interact properly with wild animals -- which is to say, not interacting with them at all in an up-close, "friendly" way. The organization has championed new children's literature that teaches the importance of respecting rare species in the wild, but some worry that the message isn't enough to counteract the association of captive wildlife with wealth and power.