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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Sanctuaries in Africa offer to take exotic pets from UAE following amnesty

Two havens for rescued cheetahs and chimpanzees in Africa tried to form links with private owners of wild animals. 

Two captive cheetahs sit on a mound in an enclosure at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, on February 18, 2016. The facility had offered to take in any cheetahs that were surrendered by UAE owners as part of an amnesty program. Gianluigi Guercia / AFP
Two captive cheetahs sit on a mound in an enclosure at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, on February 18, 2016. The facility had offered to take in any cheetahs that were surrendered by UAE owners as part of an amnesty program. Gianluigi Guercia / AFP

Two sanctuaries based in Namibia and Kenya have offered to take wild animals owned by wealthy people in the UAE following an amnesty period that allowed animals to be rehomed.

The deadline was July 1 and two of the largest havens for rescued cheetahs and chimpanzees say they have yet to be contacted despite efforts to form links with private owners of wild animals in the UAE.

Patricia Tricorache, at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, said her research into illegal sales estimates that as many as 500 of the wild cats could be held privately in the UAE.

Sanctuaries like the one run by the CCF for illegally traded and rescued cats are crucial for the survival of the species, as many would not survive if returned to the wild.

In January 2014 a group of CCF experts visited the UAE to train veterinarians and cheetah-housing facilities in cheetah care.

“We hoped that through this training we could improve conditions for pet cheetahs,” said Ms Tricorache. “However, there is much secrecy on this issue, so we are unable to determine whether the training improved conditions for some of the pet cheetahs in the country.”

Despite forging links with cheetah owners in the UAE, the CCF has not been contacted by any owners about sending some of the captive animals to Namibia.

Ms Tricorache said the Emirati authorities were the right entity to make decisions about disposal of surrendered or confiscated animals.

Federal law 22 of 2016 regulates the possession, trade and breeding of dangerous animals. It came into force at the turn of the year and those found in possession of such pets could face a heavy fine.

Dr Daniel Stiles, who is associated with the 90,000 acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya's Laikipia County, said he has not been contacted about the opportunity to relocate apes from UAE private collections, despite his efforts to relocate three chimpanzees from RAK Zoo.

“The UAE has done very little to rehome animals,” he said. “In 2002, they did send a seized chimpanzee to Kenya, where it still lives in the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where I am based.

“Otherwise, I am not aware of any seized animals being repatriated. Sweetwaters is prepared to accept up to 30 chimps right now, if the UAE would facilitate it.”

Dr Stiles rescued a chimpanzee held in an Iraqi zoo and had it transported to Kenya for a total cost of $15,000.

He said costs are not usually that high and owners should not be put off with the process involved in sending wild animals abroad as help is available.

“If there is a registered facility like RAK Zoo, the owner can legally export the animals that are kept there,” he added. “Private individuals can surrender their animals there or at any other registered facility so they can then obtain CITES export permits, which are needed. If they cooperate, it should be straightforward.”

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