The Environment Ministry recently announced an initiative to rescue wild animals kept illegally in Egypt, the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper reported. If citizens turn in the wild animals voluntarily, they will face no repercussions, the ministry stated. However, citizens found to be in possession of wild animals illegally can face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to LE50,000.
Head of the Nature Conservation Office in the Environment Ministry Al-Beily Hatab stated that crocodiles, lions and hawks are among the kinds of animals often kept illegally by citizens.
Smuggling wild animals through Egypt is common, animal welfare activist Dina Zulfika told Mada Masr, adding that the practice has increased in the last four years due to border security issues. “Animals are smuggled through the borders of Sudan, Libya and Gaza, the same routes used for smuggling drugs,” she explained.
Reports from the United Nations and international animal rights organizations also indicate that Egypt is a hub for smuggling wild animals, including monkeys, lions, giraffes and rhinos.
Aya Abdel Salam, an animal rights activist and co-founder of TNR (trap-neuter-return) Maadi expressed doubts about the efficacy of the ministry’s initiative. “I think it’s a great idea, but do you think it will be enforced? This is Egypt. No matter how hard you try, people here ask why you don’t pay attention to something other than saving wild animals from homes. I don’t know if this is really going to happen,” she said.
Abdel Salam stated that raising wild animals in private residences is a widespread practice. “We’ve been seeing lion and tiger cubs being sold in the Friday market. A friend of mine recently rescued a cub tied to a tree along the Sakkara Road. He had to pay for him, then he sent him to South Africa.”
She added that wild animals raised by civilians are not cared for properly and often mistreated. “No matter how hard they try to take care of them, it’s not their natural habitat, and that in and of itself is abuse,” she stated.
Zulfikar said that while laws regulating wildlife do exist, they are rarely enforced. “Law 9 of the Environment Ministry says that people can be fined or imprisoned for violating laws protecting wildlife. But due to lack of regulation, many do break the law.”
She added that many wild animals in Egypt are abused in circuses. “Wild animals are forced to perform unnatural acts, are mistreated and kept in horrible enclosures. This needs awareness to fix,” she said.