'These images will haunt us forever': UAE rescuers speak of horror at finding animal dump site

They have so far managed to save 92 live cats but have found over 60 dead


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 4 Oct 2023, 5:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 5 Oct 2023, 4:06 PM

British expat Chiku has been an animal lover and rescuer for several years, but she has never come across a dumping site as large as the Al Falah desert in Abu Dhabi. “It was an absolute nightmare,” she said, with her voice cracking, as she struggled to keep her tears in check while speaking to Khaleej Times. “There were bodies everywhere. When we arrived in the desert, small cats were coming running to us, screaming and crying for help. Many were dead. The youngest one was just a month old. We are all traumatised and these images will haunt us forever.”

It was last week that some Emirati rescuers raised alerts about a mass dumping site in Abu Dhabi. When others including Chiku reached the site, there were more than a hundred cats there. “We have been working around the clock since then,” she said. On Wednesday, authorities in Abu Dhabi launched an investigation into the incident with the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) vowing to take all “relevant administrative and legal measures”.

The dumped cats include a mixture of house pets and community cats and has left several rescuers baffled. “Many cats were microchipped and some of them were freshly neutered,” said Chiku. “I managed to track down and speak to one of the owners. Their cat had been missing for a few days. They were heartbroken to learn that their beloved pet had ended up in the desert and they had no idea how it had happened. So, it is not like a bunch of abandoned and community cats were dumped. Some were stolen from their owners. I really hope the authorities will find who was behind the dumping.”

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Help poured in

For rescuer Dave, the incident brought up a lot of painful memories. “My three cats were taken off the street by a pest control company and I am continuing to search for them,” he said. “So, since then, my wife and I have been heavily involved in pet rescue.”

An expert in tracking microchips, Dave became the coordinator as help poured in from animal rescuers all over the UAE. “People from all over the country came to assist us,” he said. “It has truly been a community effort. Without that help, it would have been impossible for us to deal with this incident.”

According to Chiku, the support of the Emirati community was immense. “Honestly, they have been amazing,” she said. “This area is a predominantly Emirati housing area. They have been bringing us rescuers food and water. They have also been providing food for the animals. They are the ones that helped us raise awareness and spread the word out to other fosterers.”

Time consuming and heartbreaking

Many of the rescuers had taken time off their jobs to work around the clock. “We have been spending time in the desert from 6pm to 4am, searching for cats and rescuing them,” said Chiku. “The rest of the day is spent in taking the cats to the vets and supporting foster families with food and other items.”

Dave, who has been tracking the efforts, said that the group has so far managed to rescue 92 live cats. “Sadly two of them died,” he said. “And we found over 60 dead bodies. The trend we noticed was that most of them were fluffy cats, indicating that they were someone’s pets. The five cats that I am fostering, were all neutered in the last two weeks.”

Chiku said that the process had taken quite a toll on a lot of rescuers. “I have seen grown men and women just collapse on to the desert and weeping with their faces in their hands,” she said. “Many dropped out after a day or two because it has been just so traumatising for them. Right now, there is a small group that is continuing the rescue work while others are fostering the injured the animals.”

She said that the level of cruelty shown to the abandoned animals was shocking. “Many were dumped, locked in their cages,” she said. “If they had unlocked the cages, some of them could have found some water or food or wandered to nearby houses. But the entire thing has been so shocking and inhumane. It is against everything that the UAE and its people stand for.”


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