When a wild cheetah walked the streets of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, it caused a stir with the citizens, but more importantly has put a spotlight back on the illegal trade of exotic animals that thrives in the Middle East.
Beyond cheetahs, the thriving exotic market sells all kinds of animals including chimpanzees, green velvet monkeys, bush babies, bears, pythons, tortoises, and birds of prey.
Although the problem extends around the globe, experts agree that in the Middle East, "there are some aspects of illegal trade that are particular or peculiar to the region."
The Middle East is the world's "premier destination" for illegally-traded birds of prey and some wealthy exotic pet collectors, who consider themselves above the law - and pay $200,000 for a falcon.
Besides taking animals prisoner and out of their natural habitat, there are bigger problems that stem from this illegal trade.
Mohamed Elsayed, Middle East program officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, says:
"The trouble is people who have no knowledge about the proper care of animals put the animals at risk and create the real possibility of transmitting disease from exotic pets to humans."
He can say that again! Anybody see Outbreak?
All but three middle eastern countries have signed an initiative to limit and prevent this illegal and cruel trade.
Let's hope the world can work together to stop it everywhere else too!
[Image via AP Images.]
Tags: cheetah, chimpanzees, cnn, exotic animals, international, monkeys, tortoise, trouble