More and more wealthy people from the United Arab Emirates are starting to buy big cats such as lions, cheetahs and tigers and keeping them as pets. Moreover, they are not shy about showing off their newly acquired ‘gifts’.
A quick search on social media will generate hundreds of photos of affluent Arab people proudly posing with their big cats near their million dollar condos, beautiful girls and fancy sports cars, just to show how mighty and powerful they are. Owning a pet as a lion, for instance, has become the ultimate status-symbol for these mega-wealthy people.
But as Channel News Asia points out, after the initial enthusiasm has dried, these wild animals end up being mistreated and neglected.
Most of the animals are part of the increasing illegal wildlife trade. A rare lion cub will end up costing as much as $50, 000.
Local rescuer Jassim Ali Salim has been looking after big cats in his sanctuary for the past 18 years. He says he has witnessed countless animals that have been dumped or neglected by the people supposed to take care of them. Salim argues that people are ignorant – they are looking forward to buying adorable lion cubs, for instance, but as soon as the animals start to grow, they begin to acknowledge what looking after an adult wild animal actually implies.
‘If someone goes and purchases a very expensive animal, he is boasting that he has enough money to get anything he wants’
‘If he owns a wild animal such as a lion, he can show the entire world he is brave. But this is not about courage, it is about the blatant neglect these animals are subjected to’ the caretaker stated.
Salim claims that not even the basic necessities of the animals – such as a big space and regular access to water and food – are fulfilled.
Wild animals belong in the wild, in their natural habitat, not in someone’s back yard. The United Arab Emirates must do more to ensure that this does not happen. An official ban on owning big cats as pets needs to come into force.
I am calling on all animal lovers across the world to unite and join this very important campaign. Together we can stop the needless suffering of thousands of wild animals that end up in people’s homes and are later neglected!