Buying illegal wild animals in Kuwait is, as one local puts it, “as easy as acquiring a cupcake.” Pets have long been used as status symbols the world over, but citizens of the Gulf take the prize when it comes to keeping the most exotic, controversial species—most commonly, “big cat” cubs.

International law governing Kuwait and other Gulf states forbids the import and sale of wild animals, yet the sight of supercars being driven around with a cheetah in the front seat is starting to become commonplace on Arab Instagram feeds.

Although there are legal ways to bring an animal into Kuwait, paying people off along the way is easier. Lion, cheetah, and tiger cubs are in the highest demand, fetching up to $15,000 each through black market agents. More often than not, the owners have little idea how to care for these creatures, which have no history of domestication and quickly become unmanageable—even lethal—once they’re fully grown.

In Big Cats of the Gulf, VICE investigates the area’s flourishing trade in animal trafficking and how it impacts the depleting wildcat populations of Central and East Africa. We gain exclusive access to Kuwait’s biggest Instagram star of the big cat phenomenon and hear first-hand of the deadly consequences of the business—both for the animals and their owners.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. I pray for all the animals in this and the future animals that will be kept, at the end when the maid was killed along with the lions, shows how the people who keep these animals really feel, if you can buy a wild animal, have it kill a maid then kill it and burn it, you deserve to rott in hell.

  2. Looks like at 23:55 the lion kept trying to position it's mouth at her neck and the trainer kept placing his hand as barrier before calling for assistance and pushing the lion away.

    Things were about to get serious real quick which is why she was pulled away and their smiles appeared nervous. She could have easily panicked and it would have been game over.

  3. that chick was incredibly lucky. she treated wrestling with a lion like a pillow fight. she sat there hugging and patting it as it gained position.

    it's like playfighting with a dog, except if it thinks it can kill you, it will.

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