ABU DHABI // The first SeaWorld marine life park outside the US is to be built on Yas Island.
SeaWorld and the Abu Dhabi government-backed Miral Asset Management said the park would open in 2022 on the tourism and entertainment hub.
The site will have a research, animal rescue and rehabilitation centre, which will open ahead of the park, and the theme park will focus on educating visitors about ocean conservation, officials said. The two companies had been in talks since 2011 about a park in Abu Dhabi.
The park will offer a valuable educational experience for visitors and help with Abu Dhabi’s own rehabilitation and rescue programmes, said Mohamed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral.
“There is no international standard of rehabilitation for wildlife in the UAE, and that is what SeaWorld is bringing to the game,” he said.
“We are in the very early stages, but we are opening the window to an international company with more than 1,500 experts who have rescued about 28,000 animals over 30 years.”
He said the company was confident that the park would help to raise awareness and knowledge about the care of animals such as the dugong.
The UAE has the world’s second largest population of the endangered species, which is related to the manatee.
“Such animals need special care and attention, so we need to educate fishermen and others about how we need to look after them here,” Mr Al Zaabi said.
“SeaWorld is going in a new direction, with a new strategy that will focus on education. That is what we are helping to bring to the table in Abu Dhabi.”
SeaWorld chief executive Joel Manby said that the Abu Dhabi park would also be the first not to have orcas.
“This gives us a chance to position the new SeaWorld in a very strong way, repositioning it from a company that’s only about certain species to a company that is focused on ocean health,” Mr Manby said.
The project will be built and operated by Miral and SeaWorld will license its brand and provide expertise in animal care.
The project is in the early stages of design, and company officials were not yet prepared to release details about its size, costs or types of attractions.
The Abu Dhabi location will have thrill rides and aquariums but will also use 3-D mapping and virtual-reality technologies that immerse visitors in virtual scientific expeditions or deep-sea dives, said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Miral’s chairman.
“We are going to be investing all the capital but the expertise and the insight that SeaWorld is putting in this project from day one is going to be critical,” he said.
Miral is expecting visitors from the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe to come to Yas Island for the new attraction, Mr Al Mubarak said.
“Abu Dhabi is going to be a major tourist destination, not just in the Arab world, but the world,” Mr Al Mubarak said.
* With reporting by Associated Press
* Associated Press