Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

A taste of tropical in Dubai as indoor rainforest opens

Porcupines, sloths, snakes, spiders and a huge array of exotic birds are just some of the species living within the confines of the Green Planet project in the city.
Guests get an early look around the Green Planet Dubai at the City Walk area. The project opens to the public on Thursday at 10am. Pawan Singh / The National
Guests get an early look around the Green Planet Dubai at the City Walk area. The project opens to the public on Thursday at 10am. Pawan Singh / The National

A tropical rainforest opens this week in the city boasting 3,000 species of plants, animals and birds in the tree canopy high above a giant aquarium full of exotic fish.

DUBAI // It has been years in the making, now Dubai’s very own tropical rainforest, complete with more than 3,000 species of plants, animals and free-flying birds, is ready to open to the public.

Porcupines, sloths, snakes, spiders and a huge array of exotic birds are just some of the species living within the confines of the Green Planet project, which opens at City Walk on Thursday at 10am.

Painstaking planning to ensure each exhibit had been sourced from responsible breeders from around the world left no stone unturned. It was also crucial that species were capable of coexisting in the hybrid environment.

Although the huge tree trunk in the project is artificial, each branch has planters packed with tropical flora and fauna. Eventually they will take over the structure to create a living, lush environment in which tropical species can thrive. It will be the world’s largest fabricated, life-sustaining tree.

Eric Hupperts, a Californian wildlife expert who moved to ­Dubai in January, is living exhibits manager and curator at Green Planet.

“This is a living classroom, an ­experience where anyone can learn about tropical wildlife,” he said. “A visual connection with what children, in particular, are learning about is so much more powerful than in a sterile classroom.”

Environmental parameters in the biodome have been designed specifically to maintain the plants and wildlife, with humidity set at 70 per cent and temperatures between 25°C and 28°C.

Stepping into the origami-style glass building immediately transports visitors into another world. The “flooded forest” stage offers a first look at the base level of a tropical ecosystem.

A giant aquarium is filled with species such as arapaima, arowana and graceful stingrays to replicate the kind of fish and animals found in underwater tropical environments.

A lift carries visitors to the roof of the biodome, offering a panoramic, treetop view of the ecosystem, with the waterfalls, steam and noises associated with the Amazon rainforest.

A closer look reveals other exotic wildlife, such as South American toucans and crocodile lizards, tree boas, spiders, colonies of worker ants and brightly coloured parrots and tree frogs.

Each has been carefully selected to thrive in the artificial environment.

“This tree represents how you would see a real tree in its natural environment, with vines and dripping figs,” Mr Hupperts said. “Within 10 years they will take hold and completely cover the artificial tree. It will be constantly changing, and so will the behaviour of the animals, depending on what time of day, and what time of year it is.”

The fish came from breeders in Singapore, whereas plants were imported from Thailand and India.

Green Planet is operated by the ZoOceanarium Group, a com­pany with more than 20 years’ experience in developing aquarium and zoological facilities.

Horticulturist Rob Halpern said the project is an ecology ­museum offering a rare insight into the tropical world.

“We want visitors to have a good time, see something beautiful and learn something important about nature, and the way it works,” he said.

“There is a great deal of life and diversity here. That’s why this ecology museum in Dubai centres on the tropical forest, to best tell the story of an ecosystem.”

The Green Planet will offer 15 educational programmes across five topics and three age groups – 3 to 6 years, 7 to 11 years and 12 to 14 years.

Each is inspired by the learning objectives of the Ministry of Education. Programmes have been introduced to instil responsibility and a collective awareness of the environment among children.

Tickets cost Dh95 for adults and Dh70 for children up to 12. For more information visit thegreenplanetdubai.com/en.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: August 29, 2016 04:00 AM

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