A Dh10 million agreement was signed yesterday between White Oryx and Dubai Municipality to build the park within the next two years, but the company says it should be done in half that time.
“We will start in late September and we expect to have everything constructed within nine to 10 months,” said Mohamed Oueslati, chief executive of White Oryx. “We should be open to the public by November 2014, if not sooner.”
The park will be built near Safari Dubai, the new zoo, and the Mushrif Reserve.
One of its attractions will be a nursery in which visitors will be able to handle young crocodiles.
They will also be able to feed a few of the older ones and some of the pools will have glass walls so visitors can watch the beasts under water.
More than 200 crocs will be housed at the park, most of them freshwater except for one species of saltwater. All will be sourced from White Oryx’s other centres.
“This project will be a turning point in the history of Dubai tourism,” said Hussain Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality.
“This type of wildlife tourism should help us reach our target of 20 million tourists a year by 2020.
“The park will be more than just a tourist attraction. It will also be an educational experience.
“The proposed crocodile park will encompass different crocodile species in future stages of the park’s development, enabling tourists and research students to learn A to Z about the crocodile, an animal that has existed for more than 220 million years.
“Dubai is always keen to keep up its efforts in the field of sustainable development. This includes wildlife conservation, by creating a number of natural reserves such as Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Mushrif Park and Desert Conservation Reserve.
“In addition there are several initiatives to protect animals like turtles, Arabian oryx, hawks, camels and horses.
“Our main priority is the safety and care of the animal, that’s why we have ensured that the project is undertaken with the exact requirements of animal welfare and under the Cites authorisation and approvals.”
Mr Oueslati said: “We will have different sizes and ages of the crocodiles. We will also have incubators to care for the eggs, which people can interact with and learn from.
“Some of you may not realise that the crocodile can communicate through the egg with its mother.”
He added that the company kept complete control over the population of animals.
Khalifa Hareb, director of the assets management department, said the main objective of the crocodile park was to offer a unique destination for wildlife tourism, combining nature and adventure.
“The 20,000 square metre park will strengthen the role of the UAE in the protection of endangered animal species,” Mr Hareb said.
“This project will use eco-friendly materials to create a most suitable environment for the crocodiles for hassle-free living, interaction and reproduction.”
The design of the park aims to replicate the crocodiles’ natural environment.
“We will have shaded areas of the pools that the animals can rest in, and the water will be temperature-controlled during the harsher summer months if needed,” said Mr Oueslati.
“Even though it has been around for so long, we really know very little about the crocodile.”
The crocodile park is one of many public-private partnerships projects the municipality has planned.