Dubai Safari on track for November opening

Exhibits spanning three continents ready for 2,000 animals to move in
By Shoshana Kedem
Tue 26 Sep 2017 11:04 AM

Dubai’s $270 million (AED1bn) new Safari park is ready for a November opening, Safari chief Tim Husband told Arabian Business.

The sprawling 119-hectare animal kingdom, with themed villages from Africa, Asia and Arabia are ready for their tenants from three continents to move in as temperatures drop.

“As soon as the weather starts cooling down we can start importing animals again. We’re just looking for a drop in temperature a little bit,” he said

The Asia exhibit is waiting for worker elephants flown in from Indonesia’s logging industry, wild Himalayan goats called Tahrs and giant Hawaiin sheep called Mouflon.

Prides of lions will be moved into crags of artificial, air-conditioned rocks in the Africa exhibit, while nearby a pack wolves, donated by a local sheikh, will prowl the Arabian exhibit.

Guests may also be treated to a litter of new-born Bengal tiger cubs, expected around the time of opening, Husband said.

“There’s a few pregnant animals. When it’s time to open the park we’ll have baby animals on the ground for our public.

“At least one of our tigers are pregnant. We’re watching her very closely,” he said adding that their breed usually have 2-3 cubs.

Old Zoo

Animals will also be emptied from the cramped quarters of the current Dubai Zoo in Jumeirah next month when the weather cools down, Husband said.

“It will just be a matter of catching up all the animals, giving them their health checks, bringing them here and sorting them out.

That includes the escaped ‘Barsha lioness’ found wandering the streets of the Dubai suburb early last year, and re-housed in the Dubai Zoo.

‘Croc-Drive-Thru’

In a death-defying stunt in August, Husband and his crew dived into Dubai Zoo’s crocodile pool to catch ten of the pre-historic killers to transfer them to the new park, he said.

Describing the operation he said: ‘You jump on them, you tie their mouths closed, and you walk them up into a box. It’s not hard; you just have to be quick and confident.

The crocs were dispatched to the new safari’s ‘Drive-through’ enclosure flanked with metal gates that open into a pool infested with 37 Nile crocs, who are being trained to scuttle off the runway when vehicles drive through, Husband explained.

“That’s also a slow process. Eventually there’ll understand and every time the gate opens and a vehicle comes through they should just go to their pools.

“Crocs are really smart, they’re one of the smartest reptiles so they pick that up real quick, at least we hope they do.”

Confiscated Cobras

The new Safari has been built for a total capacity of more than 5,000 animals with extra space for exotic pets expected to be dumped on the zoo’s doorstep by owners, Husband says.

Around 70 dangerous reptiles, mostly Boa Constrictors and Pythons seized from their owners by authorities in Sharjah have already been re-housed at the new zoo as part of a “new partnership” with the Sharjah Breeding Centre that shelters endangered wildlife, Husband revealed.

“We did have a good number of reptiles from Sharjah that had been confiscated. We take them because they didn’t have room. They’re all different types of restrictors and pythons.

“We’re working closely with Sharjah at the moment whenever they’ve got anything like that come up again, if they can’t hold them we’ll look at it and say yes or no.

With all the infrastructure now in place, it’s now a matter of moving the animals in five-by-five, and settling them in.

If you put 70 baboons in an enclosure at once they’d go ape, Husband joked.

As the countdown to the opening begins, Husband says visitors will need 7-8 hours to tour the zoo in its entirety. Plans are also underway to eventually build a hotel for extended trips.

Reflecting on how the Safari converted a former land fill in al Warqa’s city limits into a new haven for animals, Husband said:

“I’m actually very proud of it considering when I first turned up here it was a big sandpit. It’s going to surprise everyone,” he said.

In a recent press interview Director General of Dubai Municipality, Hussain Lootah, confirmed that Dubai Safari's soft launch will be in November for operations and testing. With the official opening yet to be confirmed.

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