Lion for sale


MY first reaction on seeing this tweet was incredulity. While browsing Twitter, I came across an account that was advertising the sale of a lion cub. The person wrote in his account that the lion cub was few months old and those interested in buying this cub could call a phone number. The number was displayed on the last line of the Tweet. What astounded me was not only the man was publicly advertising the sale of the lion cub, but was openly displaying the phone number without fear of being caught. It only goes to show that there is high demand for lion cubs and its ilk and one can brazenly do business in them.

This is a dangerous trend, and I have to say here that this phenomenon of having wild animals as pets is spreading in our society. The connoisseurs, who raise wild animals inside homes and private enclosures — sometimes even close to residential areas, are not only placing theirs and the lives of near and dear ones in danger but are risking harming the lives of innocent people. Despite what these animal lovers say, that they are taking tight measures to secure these animals inside homes or private enclosures in iron cages and high walls, there’s every danger of these animals escaping and terrorizing the neighborhood.

According to an article in a local daily, the prices of these wild animals differ, and they range generally in the thousands. For example, the price of a lion cub starts from SR40,000, the price of a tiger cub is from SR60,000 and the price of a Cheetah cub starts from SR33,000. While the older the animal is, the cheaper the price gets as it becomes less desirable as a pet because of its weak immunity, difficulty to control and the impossibility of domesticating it.

Sadly, those who are raising these wild animals in the urban jungle do not realize the gravity and the danger of their action. In addition, these people nowadays have resorted to bragging about raising these dangerous animals. They post their photos and videos with these dangerous animals on social media applications. It has become a luxury habit to raise lions and tigers. To my knowledge, the sale of these dangerous animals is totally forbidden to people and it is only done on a government level.

Those who want to import or raise these dangerous animals should obtain a permit from the Saudi Wildlife Authority. Authorities then medically examine the animals before being allowed entry. Smuggled animals or animals that do not have permit to enter, would be seized and later handed over to the Saudi Wildlife Authority or the zoo, especially if the animals are on the endangered list. But as is the practice, people flout these norms for these dangerous trends.

Last year, a lioness killed a Kuwaiti national in Hafr Al-Baten inside a private enclosure. The lioness, which was domesticated, attacked the man without any warning inflicting dangerous wounds to his neck and thigh only for the man to later die in the hospital. The owner had to put the lioness down by shooting, only after a life had been lost. In 2014, a Filipino maid died in Kuwait when her sponsor’s lion inside the family home attacked her. The maid, who used to feed these animals, was attacked unexpectedly. Last year, a grown tiger in Sakaka, north of Saudi Arabia, attacked a five-year-old girl. The tiger was brought in as part of a festival in the city. The tiger was dangerously close to the girl, when all of a sudden it attacked her. She escaped with minor injuries.

Even expert trainers, who are very well versed about their behavior and have raised them since they were young, are attacked. If this happens to experts, imagine what would happen to those who are in it for fun. We have also seen a few months back a lion in the middle of Riyadh’s streets in front of Imam University. Apparently, the lion fell from a truck accidentally and the driver did not notice the lion missing until the photo and video clip of the lion began circulating on social media.

Some lion owners think that raising dangerous animals is entertainment. I have seen in some clips of how lion owners dangerously set these lions on their friends inside a cage. The scene of the man or girl running and lions chasing them is fun for them, but it is no fun at all for those being chased and the faint-hearted. These owners should be held accountable for endangering the lives of people. This is not a sport and a lion is not an animal to brag about.

In addition, these people do not realize the wastage they are indulging in with this form of indulgence. Apart from the prohibitive cost of buying these cubs, the money needed to raise them is astronomical — paying for enclosure, feeding and veterinarian services. If that money could be used to serve any humanitarian cause it would be understandable. But spending on such whims and fancies is, in my opinion, not only wastage but a dangerous impulse, apart from it being a law-breaking act.

Lion, cheetah and tiger cubs may look cute when they are young, but they are not when they grow up. They are wild animals and their behavior is just as wild and unexpected. No matter what, a wild animal cannot be domesticated as experts say, “Domestication is a process that takes centuries within an animal species.” And even if the animal owner feeds and takes care of it with all medical care, experts say, despite the medical care they still carry dangerous diseases.

The Saudi Wildlife Authority should work with responsible authorities to crack down on such owners raising dangerous animals. Since raising them is illegal, then I think they are fit for deportation back to their wild home in Africa, or any other place which houses them.

The writer can be reached at Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng