Bahrain plans clamp on animal trade
Manama, September 9, 2013
Bahraini authorities have pledged a crackdown on the illegal import of endangered animals such as white tigers, African cheetahs and lion cubs, a report said.
They promised to shut down pet stores, zoos and farms that trade in exotic animals that are brought into the country through 'official channels', according to the report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It is claimed some of the creatures are even sedated and driven from neighbouring countries through the King Fahad Causeway.
The GDN visited facilities where crocodiles, baboons, hyenas, oryx and deer were kept in poor conditions - some without water.
Our reporter also negotiated the import of an endangered white tiger cub for $1,200.
However, Supreme Council for Environment acting director Abdulqader Khamis said his team is drawing up tougher legislation to combat the growing problem.
He told the GDN he will also ensure Customs only let animals into the country that had first been authorised by the council.
"We are now in the process of developing a national legislation and we are working with government ministries, NGOs and other parties," he said.
"We have already started to strengthen the existing legislation and we hope to introduce new laws as soon as possible.
"We are very dedicated to this and we want to make sure changes take place as soon as possible and that includes inspecting every single farm, ensuring pet shops are properly regulated and making sure that Customs first seek the permission of the council before allowing any animals into the country.
"It is a critical issue, but I can't promise to solve this problem in one or two days or even a week, but what I can say is that we are aware of what is going on and we are in the process of doing something about it.
"It has been given a very high priority. There is no simple approach, I wish I could do it today and not tomorrow because I know these animals are suffering and I know they should not be here in Bahrain and we will do our best to stop this."
Khamis said experts are being sent to Kuwait and the UAE to be trained on animal rights and find out how the issue is being dealt with there.
The GDN uncovered several pet farms and zoos in Bilad Al Qadeem, Shakhura and Jasra while investigating the issue.
One facility had crocodiles, monkeys, a variety of deer, Persian cats and hyenas all for sale. Many were left in the sun without air-conditioned enclosures or even water.
Two baboons were in a small enclosure chained up and hyenas were being kept in small cages in obvious distress, pacing the floor.
The place appeared to have no other visitors and only three workers, who were all employed in cleaning the gate and not attending to the animals.
The GDN also managed to negotiate the sale and import of a white tiger cub into Bahrain for just $1,200. White tigers are endangered and there are currently thought to be only 200 left in the world.
Bahrain became part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 2012, meaning it has responsibility to ensure that all international trade in the species listed in the convention remains legal, sustainable and traceable.
They have been given two years to ensure this happens.
However, Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) director Joyce Hughes says the situation has become even worse in the last year.
"Back in 2009 Bahrain was on the verge of signing the convention which would mean they were accountable for policing the import of these animals," she explained.
"At the time representatives were attending these conferences all around the world and we really began to believe it would happen. But years later I really cannot see that things have got any better.
"I can't tell you how many different species of animals I have seen in the numerous 'pet farms' here. These animals have to have come across the causeway from Saudi Arabia. It has to be organised somehow."
Hughes said in the last year she had seen and helped rescue raccoons, ostriches and emus.
She claimed there were even hyena breeding farms in Bahrain because they were using the genital organs as an aphrodisiac.
"We still have a huge problem with primates here, which are well known for carrying deadly diseases," she said.
"We have had them at the centre as well as lions, crocodiles, alligators, golden eagles and even a reindeer - as long as there is a market for this, they will keep coming. It is the rich and famous who have their own private zoos that cause the biggest problems but we need to educate everyone."
It is alleged that the animals are sedated and driven across the King Fahad Causeway in the back of cars.
At the time of signing the convention, Environment and Wildlife Protection director general Dr Adel Al Zayani admitted Bahrain faced many challenges in preventing the illegal international trade of animals. He said the country's geographical location has positioned it as a key trade hub in the region, where substantial international trade with animal and plant species occurs. – TradeArabia News Service