Dubai Safari Park will offer Dubai Zoo animals a better quality of life

Some of the Dubai Zoo animals will be retired when they move and live out their lives in the modern 119-hectare facility.

The Dubai Safari Park, which is scheduled to open in the next few months, will be home to 4,000 animals. Victor Besa for The National
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DUBAI // Almost 1,000 animals at Dubai Zoo will be relocated to the new Dubai Safari Park, which 4,000 creatures will call home when it opens.

The 119-hectare park is tentatively due to open in late 2017 in Al Warqa 5. It will replace Dubai Zoo and offer animals a better quality of life.

Timothy Husband, the park’s technical director, said that some of the animals will be retired and live out their lives at the park in the best environment possible.

“Some animals will not be exhibited and some animals, not necessarily from Dubai Zoo, will be part of an international breeding programme,” said the Australian. “Some of them are critically endangered and we breed up the numbers to either send over to other zoos to help with new genetics or they go to a release programme.

“We have a breeding programme for a lot of our native local animals, and some can be released back into the wild in the UAE and breed through relief, while others from Asia and Africa will be part of the international programme.”

Mr Husband said that is the reason why so much time has been spent trying to find the best animals with the best genetics, so the park’s breeding programme will be recognised as one of the best.

He also said that the park has built special areas to hold all the animals, including the ones that are not to be exhibited.

However, the new park will not be able to accommodate about 200 budgerigars, also known as shell parakeet.

“The exotic birds, we can host and look after, but the budgerigars are called semi-domestic animals, and we hope to find homes for them or maybe somewhere to disperse them,” said Mr Husband. “The last thing I want is to have them in the pet trade.”

Mr Husband said that they have already taken the two giraffes from Dubai Zoo to breed at the new facility.

“I won’t be moving anymore stock, such as deer and antelope, until the weather cools again,” he said. “Moving is very stressful for the animals and we want to make it as less stressful as possible. It’s too hot to move them now; we’ll wait until the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, Dr Reza Khan, who has been working with the UAE’s wildlife since 1983 and is helping coordinate between the two establishments, said they have already moved other animals, such as crocodiles and snakes to the park.

He also said there no plans to euthanise any of the Dubai Zoo animals, as some in the animal-welfare community had feared.

“That is very wrong,” he said. “There are [certain circumstances] when the animal is very old or can’t move anymore that it can happen but that happens anywhere.

“No way are there plans to euthanise any of the animals.”

Dr Khan also said that Dubai Zoo is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza).

“This is the first zoo in the Middle East to become a member of Waza, so we can’t sell animals,” he said. “We might give animals to others zoos, and they give us some [animals].”

Mr Husband said that it is still unclear exactly when the new park will open, as quality remains his top priority.

“We still don’t know exactly when it will open but they can blame me for the delays because I want to give Dubai quality,” he said. “I want everything to be exactly right and give Dubai the best - this place is going to be one of the jewels in the Dubai crown

“The director general of Dubai Municipality understands that quality needs more time, and I’m fortunate that he has been understanding.”