Dubai Safari Park is not your typical zoo. H.E. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality explains why conservation and ethical treatment of animals is key to its global success
Tell us about the park's vital statistics. What can we expect?
The whole site covers 400 hectares and when finished will be able to hold 5,000 animals comfortably. Stage one is about 60 per cent complete, we still need to complete the Arabian and Asian animal areas plus the main entrance, the veterinary hospital, quarantine centre and store rooms. It is expected that the total cost of this stage should be around one billion dirham and the expected opening will be by the end of 2016.
What will set the park apart from others around the world?
The safari is all about conservation and education while having a great day out. The main goal is to showcase wildlife from all corners of the world in as natural a surrounding as possible. Our main feature is where you will have your own personal guide though Africa and Asia, getting close to many animals in the safety of our vehicles.
We have the utmost respect for the animals, you won’t find activities that are unethical or degrade the animals in anyway. This is why you won’t see photos of chained tigers and lions, nor elephant rides and our education shows are designed to only show the animals’ natural behaviour. Our animal feeds and talks are timed throughout the day so that you will be able to join in and listen and ask questions.
Another thing that sets us apart from many zoos and safari parks is the high level of experience that our keepers and vets have. We have spent much time looking for just the right people to care for the collection and to make sure that the welfare of the animals is always put first.
What animals can visitors expect to see in the park?
Visitors can expect to see many different animals belonging to the carnivore family, ungulate family (large mammals such as horses, camels and rhinocerose), primates, reptiles and birds. Many of the animals in the collection are threatened and endangered. And because of this many of these animals are in a breeding programme in the Dubai Safari.
Will the park be taking part in any conservation programmes?
We have a team dedicated to conservation. Their mission is to work on programmes that are set up solely to preserve flora and fauna here in the UAE. Once the conservation team has targeted a species then they work on a plan tohelp with its survival. We also have an assistance-breeding lab where our skilled veterinary team will perform artificial insemination and even embryo transplant.
What sort of experience does Dubai Safari hope to offer?
It is the hope that our guests leave the park with a better understanding and appreciation for the wildlife around them. We want our valued local guests to feel that this is their safari and to want to come back time and time again and be so proud of their safari park that they will bring friends and visitors.
How many visitors do you anticipate the safari attracting in its first year of operation?
We should see 700,000 to 1,500,000 visitors. The aim is to be in the top 100 zoos and safari parks within the first year and within the first five years this should grow to be in the top 20.
Does the park partner any other global zoos?
At this time we already have a sister zoo relationship with Seoul grand park in Korea. Many other parks and zoos wish to partner up with Dubai Safari and we will take them on a case by case situation. We only wish to partner with parks that have the same values and ethics that are at our core. The partnership will in time give both parks the opportunity to exchange wildlife for breeding programmes, exchange information and skills and of course staff exchanges.