Menagerie inthe city’s heart

DUBAI - When the Dubai Zoo first opened in 1967, it was little more than a couple of monkeys, horses and a fish tank.

By Deepa Narwani

Published: Sun 26 Jun 2011, 12:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:41 AM

Though it has a relatively small collection even today, the zoo boasts of a few unique traits. It’s the oldest of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, the first Arabian zoo to breed the chimpanzee and the Arabian wild cat and has an impressive collection of endangered species including Bengal and Siberian tigers, Arabian wolves and Scimitar-horned oryx.

Shaikh Rashid bin Maktoum, the late Ruler of Dubai, permitted Otto J. Bulart, a Dubai resident, to build the zoo on a two hectare plot in Jumeirah. In 1971, the management of the Dubai Zoo was taken over by the Dubai Municipality. From May 1986 to 1989, a part of the zoo was redesigned and rebuilt. From June 1989 to the present, there has been constant re-designing to improve the facilities.

As you enter, you see over 30 pink flamingos from the Rann of Kutch, India, gathered around drinking water from a pool, and then there is the magnificent Arabian oryx, one of the rarest animals in the world, which breeds in the Dubai Zoo. Further ahead, there are fruit bats and snakes in glass cases, chacma baboons, graceful giraffes and the mighty African lion strutting around his den, all these accompanied by the cackle of different birds.

Admiring every exhibit, Alejo Estavan from Spain said: “There are some really exquisite creatures at the Dubai Zoo and it is a must visit to see some of the endangered species. However, the zoo needs to undergo immediate redevelopment so that animals can live in areas designed to be as similar to their natural environment as possible as these cages are too cramped.”

In recent years, the Dubai Zoo has come under fire for the conditions in which its animals are housed. Activists argue that the cages in which the animals are kept in are so small that the they can barely move. Plans for moving to a new location have indefinitely been shelved. Nobody from the Dubai Municipality was available for comment. Despite the criticisms, the zoo is still frequented by tourists and residents alike and holds a special site.

For eight-year-old Keiko Nao, at the zoo with her mom, it is a delightful place. “I like watching the peacock with its colourful feathers and the glorious Bengal Tiger. Also, the white doves are very pretty.”

Also featured in the large aviary are regional birds of prey with the nine species of large cats and seven species of primates, along with many Arabian mammals. The zoo houses approximately 230 animal species among which are foxes, hyenas, chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys, bears, giraffes and Barbary sheep. Endangered species include cormorant, gorilla, Arabian wolf, Siberian tiger and the indigenous Gordon’s wildcat. Birds include ostrich and parrots among others. There is a separate snake house that represents around 400 specimens of reptiles.

The Dubai Zoo continues to be a popular spot because of its convenient location and is crowded throughout the week. Going around the zoo takes an hour and for Dh2, visitors can see a number of beautiful animals, enjoy the outdoor setting and learn about the different species.

“As a kid, my parents used to bring me to the zoo quite often. At that time it marked the end of the city. And now I bring my children here all the time and they love it. But seeing how confined it is, I hope it soon moves to a bigger location,” said Mohammed Ayam, a resident.

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