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