A tiger cub was seized in Dubai last week after a member of the public reported seeing it “on the loose".
Officers from a special police unit, dedicated to combating the illegal trade in exotic animals, confiscated the cub, which is between four and six months old, from a man who said he had bought it online after seeing an advertisement on social media.
“He said it's his hobby to own exotic animals because he loves them,” said Col Khalfan Al Jallaf, director of the Environmental Crimes Division.
“[The incident] happened during the last week of October after we received a report from a public member about seeing the animal on the loose.”
The cub is being sheltered by the emirate's municipality, where it will have a full health check before being transferred to Dubai Safari for rehabilitation.
The man, whose nationality and age were not disclosed by police, was referred to Dubai prosecution for illegally possessing a wild animal.
“The penalty for this charge is up to six months in prison, but not less than a month, and/or a fine not less than Dh50,000 and not exceeding Dh500,000,” Col Al Jallaf said.
Since March, the unit has seized eight exotic animals. All were being kept by men aged in their 30s.
The seized animals included a wolf, a fox, and a finger-sized monkey.
“One of the animals was handed in by its owner after he read about the unit and the laws regarding possessing wild animals,” said Col Al Jallaf.
In September, police confiscated a lion cub after it was reported wandering around the Living Legends community.
“We found the cub very close to his owner’s house,” said Col Al Jallaf.
The owner would not reveal where he got the lion, but said he had not noticed it leaving the house.
Col Al Jallaf said there has been a significant decline in the number of reports of wild animals spotted in public.
“There has also been a drop in the number of people showing off by posting videos online of themselves with their wild animals,” he said.
The number of social media advertisements selling exotic animals has also decreased recently, he said.
Col Al Jallaf credited this recent fall to action by police to spread awareness about the law.
“We used our Instagram and Twitter accounts and spoke to media outlets about our unit to let people know that individuals are prohibited from owning wild animals,” he said.
More campaigns and a conference to raise awareness about UAE laws concerning exotic animals and wildlife will be launched in the coming months.
Col Al Jallaf called on the public to report any incidents involving exotic animals by calling 999 or emailing email@example.com. Members of the public can also call 901 for general enquiries.