UAE | Environment

Dubai Zoo: Looking forward to a better day

Yet another summer will come by with hundreds of animals, at the Dubai Zoo, languishing in cramped conditions even as authorities continue to delay plans for a bigger facility. Most of the animals at the zoo are either victims of illegal trafficking or unwanted pets. In trying to find them a better home, the authorities have see-sawed over the past few years between plans on building a new zoo and shelving those decisions. Gulf News reporters take a look at the venue’s struggle to become more than just an animal shelter.

  • By Ashfaq Ahmed and Dina Aboul Hosn, Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 March 25, 2011
  • Gulf News

Dubai Zoo
  • Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • More than 80 per cent of the zoo’s population consists of animals either donated by people or seized by customs or municipality officials. Now, the zoo has stopped accepting more animal donations due to a lack of space.
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Dubai: There seems to be no respite for the more than 1,000 animals at the Dubai Zoo who will continue to languish in the sweltering summer heat due to inordinate delays in plans to construct a new and bigger facility.

While the Dubai Municipality, the authority that manages the zoo, acknowledges that the zoo has its limitations, it added that there is no immediate solution to alleviate the space constraints.

"There are many plans for Dubai Zoo but all these plans are long term and no change is expected to take place at least until the end of this year," said Engineer Eisa Al Maidour, Assistant Director-General of the Dubai Municipality.

Not only is the Dubai Zoo housing animals in cramped conditions, it has also been earning bad press with limited or no promotion in hotel advertisements luring tourists to the emirate.

The zoo has grown considerably since it was launched in Jumeirah, in May 1967, with a few animals. Today, it is home to around 230 species while the total number exceeds over 1,000 animals — all of whom reside in an area measuring 20,000 square metres, which also includes offices and a visitors' centre.

More than 80 per cent of the zoo's population consists of animals either donated by people or seized by customs or municipality officials. Now, the zoo has stopped accepting more animals due to a lack of space.

"We prepared many plans for the zoo but each time the location was changed due to urban development," said Al Maidour.

As for the new location, he said it would be between Al Khail Road and Al Ain Road in the new Dubai area because it is possible to get a bigger space there.

This is the fourth time, in the past eight years, that developmental plans for the zoo have been changed. The municipality had first announced that it would be building a zoo in Al Mushrif Park in 2003, an initiative that was later shelved.

The civic body announced its plans to build a zoo at a new location in November 2005 in the Mushrif area. This never materialised either. In 2009, the municipality announced the construction of a new zoo at Dubailand, with open free-roam spaces for the animals. However, in the wake of the global recession that project was indefinitely shelved too.

"It is sad to see animals suffering in cramped conditions in a country which has the best and biggest of facilities in the world including the driverless metro, the tallest building in the world, the man made island like Palm Jumeirah and technological wonders like an indoor-ski slope," said a visitor to the Dubai Zoo. "I feel sorry that I brought my children here," he added.

Hundreds of people visit Dubai Zoo every day.

Al Maidour agreed that the existing zoo does not compare with the developments witnessed by Dubai in all fields. Nevertheless, he seemed determined to have an ideal zoo in the near future.

"The design of the new zoo is being prepared in a way where animals will be provided with much better environment..." he added.

He added that the new zoo plan will implement the best practices in the world.

  • 1,000:  number of animals at the Dubai Zoo
  • 20,000: area in sq.mts. that makes Dubai Zoo
  • 230:  number of species at the zoo

Comments (5)

  1. Added 15:47 March 25, 2011

    As many of us know, animal protesters encourage others to set the animals free by convincing people they have bad lives. But is this the case?Animals in the wild spend some of their time sleeping. But most of the time eating or hunting. In a zoo they are fed regularly with a diet that they would normally eat in their natural habitat.This feeding also frees up some of their time to be able to do other things: such as learning new skills, learning to interact with humans and how to make use of items they find. endangered animals benefit from zoos as they can be kept away from their natural predators and their numbers can be allowed to rise again. this is critical for the survival of several animals. there are just as many good marks as potential bad marks so its up to the people to make their own choice.

    Mathew Litty, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 14:38 March 25, 2011

    I was equally disturbed by visiting the al-ain zoo where I saw a lame and restless arabian leopard and a lame fox. It was quite painful to see their plight. The small cages were accentuating their sorrows and miseries. Dubai Zoo is the extreme case. I humbly request that UAE should lead an example of a country where cages and aquariums are banned so that other countries can also learn.

    Fans, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:32 March 25, 2011

    there are lots of organizations that talk about animal rights, but i don't think any of them thinks about the Zoo animals, especially in Dubai where the Zoo itself is inside the city in a very limited place. why cant they think of relocating there animals to a larger place. Dubai takes initiatives on almost all attention garbing things.. but who really cares for animals?

    Deepak, Duabi, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 12:08 March 25, 2011

    i think the zoo is a great place in dubai and i always visit each time im in dubai,the staff are wonderful and the animals although cramped,are well looked after.

    michael, huddersfield, United Kingdom

  5. Added 11:14 March 25, 2011

    I refer to the plight of the inmates of Dubai Zoo. There is only one way to close this place in Jumeirah, and that is to stop going there. People please stop visiting! You dont have to be an animal lover or animal rights activist. Just be human and use all your common sense to close down this place of sadness. How can you the residents of Jumeirah sleep at night knowing there are exotic and wild animals locked in concrete cells in unbearable heat???

    shirin Abdulrazak, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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