ABU DHABI // The Al Karamah neighbourhood has its share of stray cats. Usually they aren’t cheetahs.
Hissing and injured, a young cheetah that had escaped captivity limped through the area’s streets yesterday morning until it was captured by police and pest control officers – normally responsible for rounding up stray cats, and rats – and taken away in a pest control van.
The eight-month-old animal had a broken paw and was wearing a broken chain.
Raghad Auttabashi of the Al Rahma Welfare and Rescue Society deduced that it must have been living on the roof of a villa.
“Obviously, the cheetah had escaped because the chain was broken,” she said. “And then it jumped [from the roof] because its paw was broken as well.”
Ms Auttabashi heard about the stray cheetah from a friend who was dropping her children off at school in the neighbourhood.
Its hissing made people nervous, she said, but it was no doubt acting out of fear rather than aggression.
She called the Wildlife Association, a semi-governmental agency responsible for non-domestic animals.
But when she got to the scene, she found that the police and pest control officers had already sprung into action. She insisted they wait for wildlife officials to arrive, but the officers loaded the cheetah into their van.
Ms Auttabashi stood in front of the vehicle to keep it from leaving. She discussed the situation with police and the animal was taken to Khalidiya police station before being handed over to the wildlife officials.
It was not clear for how long the animal was loose, or from where it had escaped.
The municipality said it had received a call regarding the cheetah and told the caller to call the police. “The municipality does not know where the cheetah came from and up until now we have not received any calls about missing animals,” said a spokeswoman.
The cheetah is being held at the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre near Musaffah. “Ronel Barcellos, director of the centre, said: “We sent over a member of our staff to assess the cheetah. When we reached there, we found the cheetah completely emaciated with what appeared to be a fracture. Abu Dhabi Police took it the police station and then released it to us for its care. Our veterinarian is in the process of treating the cheetah at our centre and is sedating him so that he can operate and treat him.
“It was injured – but imagine if it hadn’t been? If an uninjured big cat had been found roaming the streets, it would have been a danger.
“It had clearly been kept in a villa or garden. It’s completely illegal to do this. We don’t yet know who is responsible but I’m sure they’ll find and catch the culprit. The poor cheetah is traumatised.”
Meanwhile, in another case arising from the mistreatment of jungle cats in Abu Dhabi emirate, a veterinarian who operated on two lions in Al Ain has provided additional details about their rescue.
According to Dr Arshad Toosy, the manager of veterinarian operations at Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR), the lions were retrieved by the centre’s staff on the instructions of Abu Dhabi Police after a court order.
Dr Toosy said he had been told the animals were being kept as pets in Silla, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
A neighbour had complained that the lions constituted a threat to his young children.
On those grounds, said Dr Toosy, a court had ordered that the animals should be confiscated, and a member of his staff went with police to the Silla villa. However, the owner was tipped off that the zoo’s staff were coming, and sent the lions to a location in the Al Muharah area of Abu Dhabi.
"The police in Abu Dhabi then discovered that location and representatives from AWPR went to collect the animals," said Dr Toosy. "They were so badly treated that we haven't had time to investigate further – we've been busy with their care."