x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Seizures of endangered wild animal goods on the rise in Dubai

A Dubai Customs official says the seizures of goods made from endangered wild animals at Dubai International Airport are on the rise.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - May 15, 2012 - Dubai Customs Inspector, Saeed Ahmed, places a piece of elephant ivory into its' display case at the Dubai Customs exhibit titled 'Endangered Speices' in the Central Galeria at Murdif City Centre Mall Dubai, May 15, 2012. The exhibit can be seen through Sunday May 20. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - May 15, 2012 - Dubai Customs Inspector, Saeed Ahmed, places a piece of elephant ivory into its' display case at the Dubai Customs exhibit titled 'Endangered Speices' in the Central Galeria at Murdif City Centre Mall Dubai, May 15, 2012. The exhibit can be seen through Sunday May 20. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)

DUBAI // Stuffed baby crocodiles, a bearskin with the head still attached and large chunks of ivory are among goods seized at Dubai airport that are made from endangered animal species.

Dubai Customs has put a range of confiscated items on display at Mirdif City Centre as part of an awareness campaign to deter travellers from smuggling goods made from rare creatures.

"This year we have found six or seven large pieces of ivory. They were carried by different passengers," said Ali Al Mugahwi, the director of the passenger operations department at Dubai Airport Customs.

"Hunters kill the elephant and sell the ivory. There have also been bearskins and stuffed falcons."

Mr Al Mugahwi was speaking after the launch of the Dubai Customs display, which will be at the shopping centre until Sunday.

The collection also includes cheetah skins, a stuffed antelope head with its horns sawn off, ivory ornaments, a crocodile skin, lizards and birds of prey.

Seizures of such goods at Dubai International Airport dropped significantly last year, compared with 2010 when an unusually large number were made.

Last year there were 35, compared with 69 in the previous year. There have been 19 so far this year.

"I want to send a message to all the passengers at this time as everyone is travelling now for summer," Mr Al Mugahwi said.

"We ask them to be careful as they are not allowed to bring in items made from rare animals in their luggage."

The trade in endangered wildlife and plants, and products made from them, is controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), to which the UAE has signed.

Some species are being pushed towards extinction by the illegal trade in specimens and goods made from skins and other body parts.

Dubai Customs hopes to play a part in countering that with its campaign.

"This is one of Dubai Customs' initiatives to raise awareness in the community with regard to endangered animals and plants," said Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, the executive director of the customer-management division.

"We want the public to look at the physical items such as these animal products, and at the same time have a clear picture about the consequences of having or importing such items into the country."

Mr Musabih said one of the largest recent seizures was of 27 kilograms of red sandalwood, which comes from an endangered species of tree native to India.

The wood has been prized for centuries, particularly in China, but the Indian government forbids its export.

Live animals are very rarely found in passenger luggage at the airport, although specimens are occasionally intercepted in cargo.

"It's very difficult to bring live animals through Dubai because the whole airport is covered by cameras and we have X-ray machines," said Mr Musabih.

"Also, flying a live animal from, say, Africa to Dubai is a long journey and usually it's impossible."

Feryal Tawakul, the executive director of community affairs at Dubai Customs, said: "Smuggling endangered animals, plants and their products is incompatible with Islamic preaching."

Mehdi Toumi, a pilot from Tunisia, took a break from shopping at Mirdif to examine the items on display, with his daughter Maya, 4.

"I think this is a good thing," Mr Toumi said. "People are talking about it as we see a lot of these kinds of animals coming to the UAE and it's very bad that we see them in this sort of shape.

"We should be aware of this problem. These animals are disappearing so we have to do something so that our children can see them in the future."

csimpson@thenational.ae