Middle East’s largest zoo undergoes big remodel

Country: United Arab Emirates
Posted on Sunday, 8 April 2007

Press Release Content

After more than 30 years since its establishment, Al Ain Zoo is shining once again as an example in the Gulf region for animal management, conservation practices and visitor comfort.

Over the past year, Al Ain Zoo has been undergoing transformations into a 21st Century attraction that not only addresses wildlife conservation but also supports Abu Dhabi’s environmental education efforts and its future tourism aspirations. Today, the Zoo has taken steps to promote an emotional bond between the visitor and the wildlife living in the Zoo by conjuring a memorable experience.

As a result of these improvements, Zoo officials have observed that the animals have become much more active, demonstrating their natural behavior. Throughout its improvements, the Zoo has built upon the cultural and natural history of the Emirate specifically and the Arabian Peninsula in general.

Today, 45 hectares of the Zoo are open to the public. Over, 4,000 mammals, birds and reptiles call the Zoo their home, with the majority of them originating from the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa. Large herds of desert antelopes, many endangered in the wild, are well maintained in extensive ‘back of house’ breeding enclosures. In addition, the Zoo houses and cares for a large collection of carnivores such as lion, tiger, cheetah, puma, leopard, caracal as well as several primates including the baboon, maque, gibbon, vervet and patas. All old, small and outdated cages, some over 25 years old, have been or are about to be demolished and replaced with large garden spaces. Among the new facilities is an Animal Health Centre, Incubation Facility, and Quarantine area.

Before the improvement process began, the Zoo carefully moved the animals into temporary homes to keep them safe from harm’s way during the renovations.

In terms of improving the visitor’s experience, an impressive main entrance, sheltering visitors from the shade, has been upgraded. The Oasis Restaurant as well as all toilet facilities have all been improved. Visitors can now also rest in an air-conditioned resting area. Moreover, family picnic areas have been re-landscaped. Clear signage in both Arabic and English has been erected.

The Zoo’s New Education and Conservation Role

A new Education Center has been opened to offer in-house education and conservation programmes to visiting school and university groups. The groups will be under go an induction programme upon their arrival to be introduced to the Zoo and the role of the modern Zoo. The Zoo has already formed a strong partnership with Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi to work together to promote conservation.

H.H Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said:

“The dramatic improvements to Al Ain Zoo demonstrate our commitment to providing both inhabitants of the UAE and visitors with a wildlife facility that takes a priority in recreation for families, education and conservation. It is the first step in making the Zoo a major tourist destination and establishing a base for future redevelopment and best practice.”

Mark Craig, Director of Al Ain Zoo, said:

“The rapid improvement programme at Al Ain Zoo has provided the animals we hold in trust with the best facilities and care. It has also allowed the public the opportunity to view and experience this wildlife in a naturalistic and family- friendly environment.”

Background

* The Al Ain Zoo was established in 1967 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

* It is the largest zoo in the Middle East.

* It currently occupies about 850 hectares and houses around 65 species of mammals, 87 species of birds and 34 species of reptiles

* Entrance fees used to be AED 2 for adults. It is now AED 10 for adults, ages 6 -15 for AED 5 and free for children under 6.

Description of Exhibits

* Walk-in Bird House Visitors can experience and hear birds from the Arabian and Australian Desert while standing in a stunning desert setting. A timber walk way allows the visitor to walk through this desert setting for close up views of over 10 species of birds. A change in habitat at the end of this journey takes the visitor into the ‘ world of the penguin’ with dramatic underwater viewing and artic landscapes.

* Bird of Prey Free-Flight Show Conducted Daily at 3 pm Visitors can experience dramatic and close-up views of the birds. The seating arena can accommodate 300 visitors. Up to 15 flacons, eagles, owls and vultures are on show displaying their natural behavior and hunting instincts alongside the professional commentary of our staff. There are opportunities for the visitor to interact and have their photo taken with these magnificent birds of prey.

* African Mixed Exhibit Spanning 5 hectares, this large enclosure exhibits African animal species in one ecosystem with no fences separating the species. This exhibit tells the story of the African Savanna and the diversity of animal species that live together as a community. Species on display together include Giraffe, Zebra, Fringe eared Oryx, Thompson Gazelle, Dama Gazelle, Ostrich, and Wildebeest. Two baby giraffe were born here last month

* Chimpanzee Exhibit The Chimpanzee is very intelligent and requires a lot of stimulation.The new exhibit has shaded areas and a 15 meter climbing structure complex that provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and zoo.

* Chilean Flamingo exhibit A new Chilean Flamingo exhibit at the front entrance is now complete. A second Greater Flamingo exhibit with giant tortoise is now also open to the public in the main core zoo area. Both new areas allow close up views of these beautiful birds and a natural landscape setting.

* Primate Exhibits A series of primate exhibits that display Baboons, Macaques, Green monkeys and gibbons have all been upgraded. Climbing frames made from natural logs, trees and ropes have been constructed to provide the primates with activity and the exhibits with a much more natural look. As a result, the animals have become much more active, demonstrating their natural behavior.

* New Lion Exhibit A new lion exhibit has been completed that allows the public improved views of these large carnivores. A much more open, natural space allows for improved public viewing over a water moat and the opportunity to observe lions through glass and shaded areas. A group of lions consisting of a male and two cubs have been settled in well. A second lion exhibit has been constructed in the ‘New Cat House’ area.

* Mixed Arabian Exhibit A new mixed Arabian exhibit has been constructed at the main entrance of the Zoo and highlights the icon species of the Arabian Peninsula: the Arabian Oryx and Arabian Gazelle. Features include a much larger area for the animals, improved public viewing, buildings repainted in ‘desert sand’ colours, sand dunes and a shaded waterhole. A second Arabian exhibit with sand gazelles provides a stunning backdrop.

* Nocturnal House The new Nocturnal House is now opened displaying animals of the night. All exhibits have been landscaped, and painted to reflect natural habitat and to provide educational information about the animals. The public walkway is air-conditioned and provides views through glass.

Notes and contacts
Mark Craig
Director
Al Ain Zoo
T: +9713-7094101
F: +9713 7829112
Mobile: +97150-6636075
E: mark.craig@alain-zoo.ae

Contact Details
Name: Laila Yousef Al-Hassan
Company: The Environment Agency
Telephone971 2 6817171
Emaillalhasan@ead.ae

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