Cheetah’s backseat safari cheers Jumeirah crowd

Amira Agarib And Sajila Saseendran
Filed on December 16, 2012
Cheetahís backseat safari cheers Jumeirah crowd

Jumeirah beach was a stir of excitement on Friday, as crowds flocked around a truck which saw a wild cat hanging its head out of a car window, soaking up the sunís rays.

Many families were enjoying a relaxing lunch along the beach road when the truck — with its wild passenger in tow — cruised past effortlessly, leaving onlookers dumbstruck.

The feisty feline — identified as a young cheetah by the Dubai Municipality’s wildlife specialist Dr Reza Khan — was seen hanging its body outside of the back window, as its owner acted as chauffeur, driving it up and down the road for all to see. And the crowds couldn’t keep their eyes off the exotic cat, with many staring in disbelief.

As the flashes rang out from onlookers’ cameras, Indian national Savio said seeing the cheetah in the car had given joy to many, especially children.

Ansam Anas Agarib, a 13-year-old student of the Westminster School, Dubai, said she could hear her heart beat but pushed herself to avail of the photo opportunity.

One Emirati was a little on edge to begin with: “We jumped when we saw it. We wanted to know whether it was on a leash or not, or whether it woud attack the people or not. When our fear dissolved and we saw the people getting closer taking photos, we realised the owner would not have allowed it if the animal was dangerous.”

However, Dr Khan said the way the cheetah cub was being paraded around did pose a threat to the public: “If it escapes, it is going to be a dangerous situation for everybody in the area,” he said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Khan said the import of wild cats is only permitted under certain regulations. “To keep any wild animals, especially large or wild cats, all owners must have a permit from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Managed by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), this body will issue a permit to import and keep such animals. We cannot predict if the owner of this cheetah has the permit or not as lots of cheetah cubs are imported illegally.”

The cheetah — noted as the fastest land animal in the world — was around the same size as a dog and seemed unphased by all the commotion it had caused.

Colonel Dr Jasim Khalil Merza, Director of the Security Awareness Department of the Dubai Police, said that this was a dangerous and prohibited act because animals can endanger the lives of people. He added that animals can be unpredictable — even those raised in the home — and can sometimes attack, or even kill their trainer or owner. As per the law, you cannot take such animals to public places and to do so could create panic among the public. He noted that some youths bring these kinds of pets out in public to show them off but said it is an irresponsible behaviour.”

Major General Mohammed Saif Al Zafin, Director of the General Department of Traffic of the Dubai Police, said that people can keep their pets or animals inside their cars but they are not allowed to hang out of windows. He added that if the person driving the cheetah around was spotted by officials, he would have been stopped and action would have been taken.

Dr Khan added that municipalities implement local orders that do not allow carrying dangerous animals in public places, meaning they can confiscate any such animal if they see it necessary.

The MoEW could not be contacted on Saturday. However, Ghaith Ahmed Al Falasi, head of the Dubai Municipality’s Veterinary Control Unit who assist the ministry in the enforcement of CITES, said they only check the legality of the purchase of the exotic or endangered animal and how they are kept.

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