Iguana killing near Safa Park sparks outrage in Dubai

Ribbon initiative launched; Animal welfare organisation calls for law to protect animals; Official asks residents to contact Dubai Municipality

A tree filled with ribbons reminds of what many described 'horrific killing of an iguana', which took place on Thursday evening near Safa Park.

The incident caused uproar among animal lovers, residents and witnesses, who are not willing to let the death go by silently.

The mother of a 15-year-old girl who saw the incident described her daughters' experience: "My daughter saw all those present throwing stones and rocks at the iguana. It was alive and attempting to escape. One of the boys caught the animal by its tail and threw it!

“The stoning continued despite my daughter's cries for mercy; she shouted at them repeatedly to stop. When she was ignored, she ran home for help. She arrived home extremely distraught by what she had witnessed.

“A neighbour and my husband rushed to the site and chased away the boys. They found eggs smashed in the sand. It took them a while to find the iguana, which was by then dead. It had been disemboweled and was hanging in a nearby tree. My husband removed the body and buried it.”

According to the mother, who has been living in the area for 11 years, residents had had several sightings of these quiet, vegetarian lizards. "They have lived peacefully here for years."

The story was published on various web pages and sparked outrage among friends and followers.

Al Rahma Welfare Society, an animal welfare organisation in Dubai has started circulating a petition, calling upon the implementation of UAE Federal Law No.16, which describes the requirements concerning animal protection in the UAE. Their target is to collect 1,000 signatures and submit it to Minister of Environment and Water, Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, Chief of Dubai Police, Dahi Khalfan Tamim and Director of Dubai Municipality, Hussein Lootah.
Meanwhile, Caroline from Nad al Shiba Veterinary Hospital has launched the ribbon initiative. "We want to mark the tree to assure that the incident is not forgotten. We have already had a lot of reactions from people wanting to hang their ribbon in the tree," she says.

Many people were too terrified to watch the pictures, or read the true story. Unbelief is what underlines most reactions to the incident. "This is so cruel and sad. I don't understand the mentality of people who can hurt animals, especially children who can do this. The poor Iguana was just laying eggs and they did this to him. It's disgusting and I really wish the culture would changes and parents would educate their children to be nice to animals and take care of them instead of hurting them. Animals are innocent and defenseless; they can't do anything to protect themselves. This is so awful," wrote a woman on an online forum for expats in Dubai.

However, others describe astonishment over the presence of an iguana of such size in a public place. "I know for a fact that if I came across it and with my kids around me, I would get a heart attack and then call Dubai municipality control to do something about it! I am not giving justification to the kids/people who killed the iguana, but the park should have informed its visitors so that they would know it's there, and would be aware to avoid it if they saw it, and not of course to harm it. Let's face it, people here including myself, are not that familiar with such animals," writes another woman on the same forum.

"We have never received any notice of an iguana living in the trees near Safa Park," says Gaith al Falasi, Head of the Inspection Section of Dubai Municipality. "If people see an iguana of such size, they should contact us so we can transfer it to Dubai Zoo."
It is not clear if any action will be taken against the offenders at this point.
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