x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Police? Help me, and make it snappy

The distressed girl told authorities the creature was 'flapping his tongue and about to attack her'.

ABU DHABI // A terrified girl made an emergency call to police after she thought she had spotted a crocodile in her back garden, only for officers to find it was a chameleon.

She called the Abu Dhabi Police operations room to tell them the creature was flapping its tongue and about to attack her.

Police mobilised forces and arrived at the property, where they found that it was just her neighbour’s pet chameleon that had escaped.

The distressed girl was calmed down by a policewoman.

A police spokesman said the force takes all reports of escaped animals seriously.

He asked pet owners to ensure their animals are properly restrained to avoid them escaping and causing alarm to the community.

A wildlife expert said although it was the first time she had heard of someone mistaking a chameleon for a crocodile, it wasn’t an impossible presumption if the person hadn’t seen either animal in real life.

“Chameleons and crocodiles are physically very different,” said Cynthia Barwise Joubert, head of invertebrates at the Sharjah Wildlife and Breeding Centre.

“It really depends on what people know and don’t know. It is very possible for a crocodile to get into a garden in the UAE. Animals escape because people hold them illegally. They release them either because they have had enough or they escape because they don’t have proper enclosures. There are a lot of animals which shouldn’t be in this country.”

She said people regularly mixed up different species of animals spotted in the wild.

“People often mistake the white-tailed mongoose for a red fox because there are so many animals here that don’t belong in the UAE. I don’t think it is impossible for her to mistake a chameleon for a crocodile if she knows nothing about animals.”

In January, there were reports that an Emirati farm owner in Fujairah had been attacked and bitten by a wolf. However, Dr Reza Khan, specialist, wildlife and zoo management at the Dubai Municipality, said the animal was most probably a large Arabian fox.

There have been no sightings of an Arabian wolf in the UAE in the past few decades, although they are present in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The animal was killed after it tried to attack the Emirati and other farmers.

newsdesk@thenational.ae