Image: YouTube

Lions, tigers, and other exotic animals often kept as pets in the UAE are officially banned — with owners now facing extensive fines and imprisonment sentences.

The UAE has historically been a hotspot for the illegal trading, taming, and possession of exotic animals, especially cheetahs, tigers and lions. Owning these big cats has served as a symbol of social status in society, representing substantial individual wealth.

These animals have been illegally imported into the UAE and other gulf countries to be subsequently kept in households within unsuitable cages and limited living areas. Oftentimes owners of cubs and young exotic animals end up abandoning them later on in their lives when the upkeep of the animal exceeds the appeal.

Image: YouTube

TRAFFIC is one of the most prominent wildlife trade monitoring networks and has reported that illegal wildlife trade is attributed to hundreds of millions of dollars in worth.

This new legislation has been enacted in part to viral media coverage of exotic pets being openly displayed in public areas. A few of these incidents involve photos of cheetahs being driven around and posing on the hoods of automobiles, owners videoing themselves in dangerous situations with their pets, and lions lounging on couches in living rooms.

The law is now being carried out in full force and states that owners of exotic animals seen in public will be fined up to $136,000 and face up to six months imprisonment. In addition, owners that use their animals to terrorize others will be subject to additional fines and imprisonment terms. 

Overwhelmed wildlife parks supported in part by the government are left caring for many of these abandoned animals. 

A manager of the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Center told CNN: “The UAE has come a long way … I am happy to see that the law has been passed, but steps need to be taken to ensure that it is implemented properly.” 

Take a look inside the exotic pet trade: