Dubai Safari will re-open but changes must be made, vows departing director

Tim Husband was instrumental in establishing Dubai's first wildlife park in 2017 but its future has remained uncertain since it closed for 'improvements' more than 18 months ago

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Dubai Safari's departing director said wholesale management changes must be made if the park is to finally make the emirate "proud" - more than 18 months after it last opened to the public.

It will be the end of an era when Tim Husband walks away from his dream of a wildlife oasis in the desert to take up a new posting in Saudi Arabia this month.

Things have not quite worked out as he had hoped at the 1.19 million square kilometre animal kingdom in Al Warqa.

His main regret is opening Dubai’s first wildlife park before it was ready to welcome tens of thousands of visitors who piled through the gates in December 2017.

There has been no information given to the public about the zoo. With no communication, rumours started about hundreds of animals dying. That just wasn't the case

Just five months later and the park closed for ‘park improvements’ but it has remained shut ever since.

“If it is to get back to where it was supposed to be and what Dubai can be proud of, there needs a whole change in management,” he said.

“Those making decisions need to understand what they are talking about.

“Even simple things like marketing, there has been no information given to the public about the zoo.

“That has been mind blowing for other zoos around the world.

“With no communication, rumours started about hundreds of animals dying. That just wasn’t the case.

“In fact, we have had to slow down the breeding as there have been so many.”

One success story has been the development of a quarantine area for confiscated exotic pets who have been taken in and cared for with a plan to export to other breeding programmes around the world.

Dubai Safari closed in May, 2018 for improvements due to take five months, but is still to re-open.     

Home to more than 2,500 species, the safari was the first facility in the UAE to offer an in-house zoo-keeping course.

No re-opening date has been set for Dubai Safari, but Mr Husband hopes it will enjoy a dazzling new beginning when that finally happens, probably later this year.

“When it does finally re-open there will be so many young animals who are now used to the vehicles in the park and human contact, they will not hide any like before so people will be able to see them better,” said Mr Husband.

“All three shows are up and running. Those will be a bird of prey show, another bird show and one themed around earth, air and water with animals from each zone.

“They will all be doing natural behaviours.”

Four juvenile elephants, brought into the UAE from Zimbabwe after a legal cull will also be the first legally imported into the country and put on show.

Mr Husband, a New Zealander, will take up a new position developing a safari attraction in Saudi Arabia later this month.

“Zoos and safaris will continued to have a place in society,” said Mr Husband.

“I hope one day there is no need for them.

“But that will only happen when people realise these amazing animals are not here to be exploited.

“They must have the land, either whole countries or islands, where animals are left alone.

“Until then, modern zoos are a living ark where they can be kept until human kind bucks its ideas up.”