An artist’s impression of Desert Safari, which will replace Dubai Zoo. The project is expected to be completed by 2015. Image Credit: Dubai Muncipality/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Tucked away behind a large security fence on Al Aweer Road opposite Dragonmart, workers are diligently building and landscaping the desert to shape Dubai’s new Safari Park zoo in time for a 2015 opening, say officials.

Plans to relocate Dubai Zoo, currently located on Jumeirah Road, have been on the cards for nearly 10 years as the project has been scrutinised, reworked and revised to come up with a feasible method of relocating roughly 1,000 animals from their existing cramped quarters.

The development of the new zoo is being carried out by Dubai Municipality and will see one of the most modern facilities in the world rise from the sand in the Al Warqa area.

“The project is smoothly running on track and will be completed by the end of 2015,” said an official at Dubai Municipality who is working closely with the project. “The project consists of 12 phases, and within the next few weeks we are going to start construction on the Safari Village. The wadi has already been completed.”

The Safari Park will be divided into four different sections — African, Asian and Arabian Villages and an open safari — for animals coming from different geographical locations, with architecture and landscaping to match.

“The project covers a total area of 120 hectares of land, and is a green project in the sense that it will be energy-efficient,” said the official. “The first phase of construction took a long time to complete because it used to be a landfill, so we had to clean and level the site.”

The municipality has been carrying out excavation works on the Dh150 million park project since September 2012 and confirmed that the ground has already been levelled, while areas for internal and external roads have also been set up.

The Dubai Safari project will consist of a zoo, safari and butterfly park, botanical garden, resort, golf course, in addition to educational, conservation and veterinary facilities.

Dubai Safari’s progress has caught the interest of residents, who are monitoring its progress, as the new zoo will provide a much higher quality of life for the animals in the current 1.5-hectare attraction, which was originally constructed in 1967.

In 2005, the General Projects Department at Dubai Municipality announced that the safari park would be built as an extension of Mushrif Park, but in 2007 the civic body then revealed that it would be relocated to Dubailand and cover 350 hectares. But even though its deadline was 2009 and finalised, that project was then scrapped in the wake of the global recession.

In 2012, the civic body confirmed that its location would be at Al Warqa.

As the site is slowly taking shape and one of the main attractions — the water feature package that includes a wadi — has been completed, the project is in full-swing and is expected to be completed within one year’s time.

There will initially be 1,600 parking spaces over two designated areas and further down the line the municipality intends to expand it to 3,600 parking spaces across 9.4 hectares.

The safari project will not only be larger than the old zoo, but will also feature a long list of facilities that are all environmentally sustainable.

Dubai Municipality has taken power consumption into consideration when designing the green project, and will incorporate solar power, water recycling, waste disposal and other recycling facilities.