UAE: Children 'drive trend for exotic pets'

A growling lion Image copyright AFP
Image caption Not so cuddly: When it comes to pets, a guinea pig isn't enough for some children

Children in the United Arab Emirates are shunning toy animals in favour of their real-life counterparts, it's been reported.

The trend for exotic pets in the emirates has long caused alarm among conservationists, and one expert says children are now particularly keen. "We noticed that the main problem is related to kids who would like to have exotic animals and play with them as a toy," Dr Elsayed Mohammad, regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), tells the Gulf News website. "I am mentioning this to draw the attention to who is driving the demand for exotic animals: the demand is from kids." Dr Mohammad says he's astonished that families visit animal markets to buy everything from reptiles to primates, and says exotic pets can cost as little as 60 dirham ($16; £11). "It's about lack of awareness among families," he says, adding that almost all the children he's met during work in the country have owned an exotic pet, including lions and pythons.

UAE's government has tried to crack down on the trade in exotic animals, signing a number of international agreements. According to Gulf News, the number of lions imported into the country fell from 114 between 2010 and 2012, to five the following year. In the Sharjah emirate, which borders Dubai, authorities banned the possession of exotic pets in November, giving owners one month to surrender any they had in their homes. Among the animals handed in were tigers, leopards and crocodiles.

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