Thursday, 30 October 2014

Private zoos boasting exotic animals – the new status symbol of Armenia's elite

Government accused of turning blind eye to importation of endangered species with cheetahs, lions, tigers and bears kept as pets. EurasiaNet.org reports

Marianna Grigoryan for EurasiaNet.org, part of the New East network

theguardian.com, Thursday 30 October 2014 10.33 GMT

The neighbours of Mher Sedrakian, an MP in Armenia’s rulingRepublican party, have a persistent problem with noise. But this is not about wild parties or car horns. Rather, it is about lions.

The lions that Sedrakian allegedly keeps as pets at his home in the Armenian capital Yerevan roar continuously, his neighbours complain.

Increasingly, many Armenians can understand that concern. Private zoos with lions, tigers and bears are emerging as a popular hobby for the wealthy and powerful, and the government does not seem inclined to intervene.

Instead, recent amendments to wildlife legislation seem to facilitate this pastime. Private citizens are allowed to own wild animals, including endangered species, as long as they provide areas for the animals that ensure their “life, health and safety”, and prevent escape from captivity, the law says. Supervision is supposed to be “constant”. 

But it is not. Last November, tiger cubs were found in the streets of Etchmiadzin, a town about 12 miles from the capital, Yerevan, local media reported.

Although tigers, as an endangered species, cannot be exported from the wild, their import from zoos is allowed. 

A search of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) database for 2008 to 2013 shows the import of six tigers to Armenia, including three Siberian tigers from Ukraine. The others came from Belgium, Chile and Kazakhstan.


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