No, I’m not talking about the designer-clad nightclub-goers in the Armani Hotel or the less, um, well-heeled patrons in Bur Dubai or Deira.

For a country that’s 100 percent desert, there sure are a lot of exotic animals running around. Saturday night, residents in the Al Karama neighborhood in Abu Dhabi reported a young cheetah on the loose. This is akin to suddenly running across a big kitty prowling around the M Streets in Dallas.

(Gulf News via AP)

He was caught Sunday. The 11-moth-old cheetah was injured and had a chain around his neck. People at the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre said it looked like he escaped from a “private zoo.”

A cheetah? There are scores of homeless kitties around Abu Dhabi that would love the chance to spend this summer indoors curled up in your lap.

I suppose in a place that’s still growing into itself — I think the U.A.E. is in that teenager phase, rebelling to be different but conflicted by ties to tradition, on the way to full self-realization. So, perhaps, this is all part of the one-upsmanship. The tallest building in the world. The biggest indoor amusement park. You have a house cat. I have a tiger!

We saw a U.A.E. tie to this illegal exotic-animal trade earlier this month when an Emirati was stopped at the Bangkok airport. In one of his suitcases were two sedated leopard cubs. Another bag contained two other leopard cubs, a Sun bear, a gibbon and a marmoset. Media reports said each of the animals, which might have been bound for Saudi Arabia, were estimated to be less than three months old.

To be sure, the Middle East is not the only place that likes exotic pets — Russia is apparently another. But this seems to happen often enough here to have an Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre, for which, at least, I’m glad.

Thanks to Margaret Coker for providing this handy rundown of wildlife sitings in the U.A.E. since 2005.

Life in the UAE — Animals roam streets

* May 29, 2011: An injured cheetah is found roaming the streets of Abu Dhabi.

* March 8: A young monkey, believed to be a baboon, was spotted running between parked cars at a petrol station in Silicon Oasis, Dubai.

* January 11: A pupil was bitten by a snake in Dubai while on a school trip.

* December 7, 2010: Cheetah spotted roaming the streets of Sharjah near Radisson SAS Hotel.

* March 2: A snake was spotted in a public school in Ras Al Khaimah, causing chaos.

* December 27, 2009: A python measuring more than a metre spread panic in Sharjah.

* January 14, 2007: A runaway baby crocodile spotted by an Emirati boy on the beach.

* November 15, 2005: Dubai resident reports seeing a tiger inside a 4X4 vehicle car near the Mall of the E

Advertisements