Joyriding Jumeirah cheetah sparks debate on wild animals in Dubai's urban jungle

Incident of cheetah hanging out of a Black SUV raises issues of exotic pets

If Ikea Toronto had a cheeky monkey prancing around in a stylish shearling coat last week, Dubai was one up over the weekend with an exotic cheetah casually hanging out of a car window, while being chauffeured around the streets of Jumeirah.

Such was the sight last Friday with onlookers stopping dead in their tracks, with one Dubai resident, Asma Khan, who witnessed the incident, saying: “It was insane. I was casually taking a walk when I noticed people pointing at something in a car. When I stepped up to look, it was a cheetah!

“I was so shaken up, I couldn’t even remember to lift my arm and take a picture.”

The casual joyride of an exotic animal isn’t a new story in the UAE, with this year alone seeing several highly publicised incidents including a lion hanging out of car window on the Jumeirah Beach Residence stretch back in February, while in that same month a tiger was also snapped, glaring out from a front passenger window in Dubai Marina.

Said a JBR resident at the time who was present during the February incident: “I was walking home that evening after a grocery run when a car pulled up at the JBR traffic light. As the window rolled down, a small head poked out that had me drop my bags in shock! It was a lion.”

Meanwhile, in May last year, where residents in the capital were terrified when a 10-month-old cheetah was discovered roaming the streets of Al Karamah.

The injured animal was said to have escaped its owner, with a chain around its neck and malnourished; it was finally captured by authorities and handed over to the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre, according to media reports.

A few months earlier to that incident, another cheetah scare had residents in Sharjah locking themselves in their home when the wild cat was found swimming ashore from Khalid Port before seeking refuge in a nearby mosque.

The two-year-old female was sent to the Sharjah Desert Park after its capture.

Exotic animals have always found willing buyers in the UAE and this website has reported on several wild animals easily available and being bought here.

In an earlier report, the website found illegal African cheetahs are becoming very popular as pets for some rich individuals who pay about Dh40,000 to own this dangerous pet.

Meanwhile, websites (which Emirates 24|7 has refrained from listing) are booming with buyers for exotic cubs, with white tiger cubs being the hottest sell, going for as much as Dh50,000 per pup.

However, several reports have also come forth of ill treatment of these animals, with most of these exotic pets being declawed, with their sharp teeth filed down and found in various states of malnourishment.

An earlier report carried by this website suggested that all these cheetahs are smuggled into the country from African countries.

The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water Resources has warned those involved in the illegal trade of wild animals in the country, and has reiterated that smugglers will be punished with fines and imprisonment.

In an emailed statement to Emirates 24|7 earlier a spokesperson said: “Selling wild animals and big cats like lions, cheetahs and tigers is illegal because the Ministry issues such permits only for registered breeding centres or zoos as the breeding centres or zoos know how to handle [these] species of animals.”

The Ministry has warned that dealing in wild animals remains illegal and punishable under various rules and only licensed breeding centres are permitted to import such animals.

Punishment for smuggling or dealing with wild animals go up to Dh10,000 and imprisonment for a few months.

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