Wildlife trafficking is big business.
Worldwide, the "industry" is thought to be worth anywhere between US$7 billion (Dh25.71bn) and $25bn a year, making it second only to the international drugs trade in terms of criminal revenue.
Statistics on animal trafficking in the Gulf are scarce, but recently a man from the Emirates was arrested in Thailand for trying to board a plane bound for Dubai with two suitcases filled with live baby leopards, a monkey, a gibbon and a bear.
"To collect five or six cheetah cubs from the wild, you might have to seize two or three litters because not all cheetahs survive in the wild," says Dr Arshad Toosy, the manager of veterinary operations for Al Ain Zoo.
The zoo received five young cheetahs last year after police discovered them in a shipment at Dubai International Airport. Ten had died during transit. "To collect five, 10 or 20, imagine how big an area they have searched and how many animals they have killed," says Dr Toosy.
Collecting exotic animals is considered by some to be an opulent hobby, making it a profitable business, says Lisa Perry, the programme director of Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF. "The illegal trade crisis is a global phenomenon and the UAE is not immune to the challenges of keeping wildlife from illegal trade," she adds.
A number of recent cases, including a cheetah on the loose in Abu Dhabi, may suggest a rise in animal trafficking locally.
"For some of these more exotic species if you're talking about cheetahs or falcons, yes, the profit is considerable," says John Sellar, the chief of enforcement for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
Cites has a policy of not disclosing specific prices because it believes this encourages trafficking. But Mr Sellar says he has heard of one case in the UAE some years ago in which a falcon was bought for about $200,000. Yet there are positive signs of change within the Emirates.
"The illegal trade in falcons into the UAE used to take place at a very significant level, but we do not think that's the case now," says Mr Sellar. "The UAE is one of these countries where many of the falcons are captive bred birds, instead of falcons that have been taken from the wild.
"Indeed, in many respects the UAE is better than many countries in the world. Could it be better still? Yes of course it could be."
The UAE signed up to Cites in 1990 and went through a period in the early 2000s during which its anti-trafficking implementation was "not good", says Mr Sellar. But the country has since turned the situation around and there have been seizures by authorities on a fairly regular basis.
"The UAE could be a shining example to not only its neighbours but to the rest of the world," says Mr Sellar. "It does do very good work and it appears that a minority are spoiling that impression."