Target: Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
Goal: Outlaw the private ownership of wild animals and endangered species in Armenia
If you happen to wander past the house of Mher Sedrakian, an MP in Armenia’s ruling Republican Party, you will hear the deep bellow of a lion’s roar. This is because private citizens in Armenia are permitted to own wild animals, including endangered species. Even amendments to the country’s animal welfare laws facilitate this lifestyle. Not only is this dangerous and cruel for animals, it also puts the public in danger and must be stopped immediately.
The law states that private citizens are allowed to own wild animals, including endangered species, as long as they provide for the animals’ “life, health and safety,” and prevent escape from captivity. It is also emphasized that supervision is supposed to be “constant.” To make matters worse, although the law does state that tigers cannot be imported from the wild, they can, however, be imported from zoos. Last November, tiger cubs were found in the streets of Etchmiadzin, a town about 12 miles from the capital city of Yerevan.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) database shows that between 2008 and 2013 three tigers were imported to Armenia from Belgium, Chile, and Kazakhstan. Three Siberian tigers were also imported from Ukraine. A CITES certificate is required to bring a wild animal across the border and border guards will attest to this. A recent investigation by Hetq.am, however, revealed that not all of the animals that come across the border make it onto the CITES database, meaning they are not reported by authorities. This includes an endangered bonobo and dozens of crocodiles.
Other animals that were reported in the database, however, include 18 cheetahs, nine lions, 41 fennec foxes, and 21 rheas. It is not clear within the reports whether or not the animals were meant for the Yerevan Zoo, but the zoo’s director, Ruben Khachatrian, made a statement saying that the facility was “making every effort to meet international standards” and expressed regret that the country had developed a reputation for the illegal trade of wild animals, which seems to suggest many of these animals were not headed to the zoo.
Sadly, this is only the beginning. Many of Armenia’s leaders have their own “private zoos” on the property, which house numerous dangerous and endangered species. Former deputy defence minister, Lieutenant General Manvel Grigorian, the head of an influential organisation of Karabakh war veterans, keeps tigers, lions, bears and various birds. He also owns a toothless tiger that he uses to protect his property. The menus at Armenian restaurants are filled with the meat of bear, boar, and deer, which are all endangered in the country.
Please sign the petition below and demand that Armenia change its policies on the importation of wild and endangered species.
Dear President Sargsyan,
Armenia has earned a reputation for the illegal trade of wild animals, including endangered species. In the past five years, cheetahs, lions, bears, fennec foxes, and tigers have all made it across the border and into private hands. This is because of Armenia’s absurd law that these animals can be imported so long as they are arriving from a zoo and not directly from the wild.
Not only are Armenia’s laws a threat to the continued survival of many species, they also put the public at risk. On numerous occasions bears and tigers have been seen wandering around city streets. To make matters worse, many of these endangered species are owned by the country’s leaders, including members of parliament. Please stop this immediately and change Armenia’s laws to ban the private possession and ownership of all wild animals, especially endangered species.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: tambako via Flickr