BEIRUT — A 2-year-old lion, emaciated and barely breathing, is found in a tiny cage off a Beirut highway. Monkeys are hauled through the dark tunnels of Gaza, bound for private zoos. Rare prize falcons are kept in desert encampments by wealthy Arab sheiks.
The trade in endangered animals is flourishing in the Middle East, fueled by corruption, ineffective legislation and lax law enforcement.
"It's a problem in the Arab world that we can no longer ignore," said Marguerite Shaarawi, co-founder of the animal rights group Animals Lebanon.
The group is pushing for Lebanon to join the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, whose signatories are meeting this month in Qatar. It is the first time the 175-nation convention is meeting in an Arab country.
Lebanon and Bahrain are the only Arab countries yet to sign the convention.
Delegates at the UN conference are considering nearly four dozen proposals on a range of endangered species from rhinos to polar bears.