x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 August 2017

Dubai Safari Park to include sanctuary for rescued exotic animals

More than 1,000 animals from Dubai Zoo in Jumeirah will also be transferred to the 119-hectare Duai Safari Park site.

Fourteen exotic animals and distinctive birds are among dozen of creatures confiscated in raids from properties in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Environment and Protected Areas Authority
Fourteen exotic animals and distinctive birds are among dozen of creatures confiscated in raids from properties in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Environment and Protected Areas Authority

A sanctuary for exotic animals rescued from illegal private collections or handed in during an amnesty will form an important part of the new Dubai Safari Park.
More than 1,000 animals from the ageing Dubai Zoo in Jumeirah will also be transferred to the new 119-hectare site near Dragonmart.
Hundreds of indigenous birds could also be released back into the wild from the closing zoo, including a flock of about 100 cormorants.
The new park will house a quarantine facility to temporarily house any exotic pets that are handed in, before they can be rehomed.
That will be either in the park itself, or to other registered facilities that meet the relevant criteria of good care and professionalism.

> Read more: Dubai Safari Park animals will have best facilities, says director
“People can surrender their animals here,” said the park’s technical director, Timothy Husband.
“We have a policy if the animal looks like it has recently been wild caught. We have a great connection with Emirates airline where we can get these animals back to the wild, or a sanctuary in the wild.
“If it looks as if they are captive bred, we can assess them if they are genetically good by looking at their health and by taking a blood sample we can enter them into an international stud pool.
“It takes about a year for an animal to go through that process. It’s like working on a stolen car to make it legal again to drive. It is a slow process.
“We can offer these animals to other zoos, but they must meet our high standards.”
Wild animal experts estimate as many as 100 cheetahs could be held illegally in private zoos and collections in the UAE.
An amnesty on exotic pets owned in the UAE expired on July 1, but owners wishing to surrender their pets are advised they should still consider handing them over to authorities to be rehomed.
Federal Law No2 of 2016 regulates the possession, trade and breeding of dangerous animals, and came into force at the turn of the year. 
Those found in possession of such pets could face a Dh100,000 fine under new laws.
Sharjah imposed an emirate-wide ban in late 2014 but continues to find such animals in private ownership.
As we reported last month, lions, dangerous snakes and distinctive birds were among 14 creatures to be confiscated from private properties in the emirate.
Animals such as cheetahs have also been found in the past.
“We don’t know exactly how many cheetahs are illegally kept as pets in the UAE, but I have heard somewhere between 100 and 500,” said Patricia Tricorache at the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
“Research I’ve been carrying out of online advertisements for cheetahs in the Arabian Peninsula includes over 1,200 cheetahs offered for sale between 2012 and 2016.
“If at least 100 pet cheetahs in the UAE are subject to the new law, they will need more than one facility to house them.”
Even in professional facilities, the death rate for captive-bred cheetah cubs less than six months old is more than 30 per cent, according to the 2015 International Cheetah Studbook – an online voluntary register of captive cheetahs around the world.