Customs officers and border patrols are actively engaged in the ‘Disrupt’ programme to identify and confiscate illegally trafficked animals across regional territories.
Specialists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare are training officials how to spot different species, and ensure certified traders are carrying valid Cites permits to transport animals.
So far in 2018, two training sessions have been completed in Morocco, one in Oman and others are due for Iraq border officials and in the UAE to improve awareness along key transit points into the Gulf.
“We do a lot of this training continuously in the Mena region as it’s an important transit route for illegal wildlife trade from Africa to Europe,” said Kinda Jabi, from the IFAW’s Middle East and North Africa office in Dubai.
“During this training we provide real wildlife samples for the customs personnel to practice on, so they can really see and feel what to look for.
“We train custom officials on how to confiscate wildlife, live and products, at the airports and seaports in the Mena region.
“The work we do with ministries and governments is to promote animal welfare and build capacity, but they are the ones who carry on and do the great work of confiscations and regulations.
“There are no statistics to be able to tell if demand is increasing, but it’s still taking place.
"The proof is what we are seeing sold in Dubai and Sharjah markets.”
The Ministry of Climate and Environment authority has a department detecting and checking reports continuously on any information posted online regarding illegal selling of exotic pets in the UAE.
Laws issued by federal government prohibit the keeping of dangerous wild animals as exotic pets, such as lion cubs, cheetahs and cobras.
The IFAW is also involved in awareness campaigns targeting these people and the younger generation.
Ms Jabi said demand for exotic pets is fueled by those wishing to enhance their social status, where others incorrectly believe keeping rare animals at home is protecting them from extinction.
“The ministry has been paying a lot of attention to saving these animals and controlling the trade,” she said.
“A lot of our work revolves around raising awareness in schools to build young students’ attitude towards wildlife and the right thing to do, and cultivate their interest in the welfare of the animals in their community.”