Fri, Nov 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Lion-car combo latest in French selfie bling

‘A DISASTER’:Rich people in Persian Gulf states pose with cubs and take photos of themselves in the car, Reha Hutin said, and the fad has now spread to France

AP, PARIS

When Paris police officers found a lion cub in a Lamborghini during a traffic stop this week, they exposed the tip of what animal campaigners say is a bizarre and disturbing new trend: People buying or renting cubs to take selfies of themselves with a baby big cat.

The male cub, named Putin, but known as Dadou, is less than two months old and would likely have died of poor care had police not stopped the luxury sports car on the Champs-Elysees on Monday and rescued the cat, according to 30 Million Friends, the French animal protection non-governmental organization (NGO) now caring for it.

“There are hundreds of babies going around like this illegally,” 30 Million Firends president Reha Hutin said in an interview on Wednesday. “You can buy a cub for less than a dog. It costs 300 euros (US$340) and so they buy them off circuses.”

“It’s really a disaster,” she said. “They get these babies and they take selfies with them on social media.”

Hutin believes the fad spread to France from Persian Gulf nations.

Wealthy people in the Persian Gulf states pose with cubs and “take photographs of themselves in the car,” she said. “Once they grow up they’re just thrown out.”

The NGO works with a sanctuary in Jordan that already houses 30 to 40 abandoned wild cats.

“What’s terrible [is] it’s coming to France. We’ve literally saved four babies in the past six months because they are copying those guys,” Hutin said. “Like: ‘Look at me, look how special I am.’ That’s become a real fashion.”

Not just in France.

Another lion cub is adjusting to life in a Dutch big cat center after a jogger ran into it last month in a cage dumped in a field in the central Netherlands.

The NGO is suing the driver of the sports car, who was taken into custody after police found the cub.

Sports cars are often offered for hire on the Champs-Elysees, for tourists to take short, high-adrenaline rides on the famous avenue and surrounding streets.

In a separate case brought by 30 Million Friends, a French court handed a six-month jail term to another person found with a lion cub.

“We were very happy to get that. Maybe it will dissuade others,” Hutin said.

The Lamborghini cub is the third recovered by 30 Million Friends in a month.

One, a small lioness, was found by the customs brigade in a cage in a garage in the southern French port city of Marseille.

The NGO is calling for beefed-up government measures against the trafficking of wild animals and their use in circuses.

“It’s the circuses that are breeding them, to have all these new cubs,” Hutin said. “That’s how these babies, these cubs, are found on [the] Internet.”

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