African wildcat advertised illegally on Dubizzle in UAE

10Jan 2020
Correspondent
The Guardian
African wildcat advertised illegally on Dubizzle in UAE

AN African wildcat has been advertised for adoption in the UAE in the latest example of exotic species being traded illegally online.

By Gillian Duncan

The serval, which is found across much of Africa as well as parts of the Middle East, was described as “sweet natured” and looking for a “forever family”.

The advertisement was posted on the classified site Dubizzle on December 31 but removed when The National got in touch with the company.

Under a UAE law introduced in 2016, it is illegal to own, buy or sell wild or exotic animals in the country.

“Ready to leave now,” the advertisement said.

It described the serval as a pure breed and an image was provided.

Native to the African savannah, serval cats are classed as wild animals and cannot be owned, bought or sold in the UAE without proper documentation.

The cats can be identified by their black, cheetah-like spots, as well as their large ears.

The UAE is a signatory of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, banning the trade of certain animals.

Serval cats are listed in appendix two of the agreement as they are at potential risk of extinction if their trade is not controlled.

Phil Grange, an administrator of the Facebook page for cat welfare group the Bin Kitty Collective - which spotted and reported the advertisement - said it was the first time he had seen a serval advertised online in the country.

“Purebred servals are restricted under the Cites regulations, so are illegal in the UAE,” he said.

When The National attempted to contact the seller, it found the telephone number provided was not in use.

An email address was also given by the vendor but no reply to questions about the animal was received by the paper.

According to a post on the website for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, serval cats make unsuitable pets.

“They are difficult to contain in a home or enclosure setting and pose a risk to people, children and other pets,” it said.

“Serval cats are strong, fast and have an incredible capacity for jumping. In the wild, servals will leap high into the air to catch flying birds and can slap fish hard enough to stun them.”

It is not the first time wild animals have been advertised on Dubizzle. In 2016, The National published an article about the sale of cheetah cubs on the website.

Last September, a white lion cub and two tiger cubs were among five animals seized by officials in Sharjah after being illegally offered for sale on another site.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for Dubizzle said the serval advertisement was removed as soon as the company was notified.

"Dubizzle does not condone the illegal trade or adoption of wild animals, not just because this is in line with UAE law that bans the private possession of wild animals, but also because we truly believe animals thrive best in their natural environment," the company said.

"As such, we have removed the ad as soon as it was brought to our attention. Dubizzle encourages users to report any illegal sale, trade or adoption of wild animals that are posted on the platform.

"When such an ad is reported, Dubizzle has a dedicated customer support team that deletes the ad and blocks the seller's account."

The Ministry for Climate Change and Environment, which controls the legal trade in wild animals, was contacted for comment.