The site in Al Warqa, opposite Dragon Mart, is, every single day, looking more and more like a miniature man-made version of South Africa’s Kruger National Park or Chobe in Botswana. From the thatched terraces to the huge elephant and giraffe replicas, it very much is Dubai meets Africa. And don’t worry, there will be real animals.
The Dhs1 billion project, which has been built on top of a landfill site in Al Warqa’a, has provoked plenty of discussion since it was first announced several years ago, and speaking this week the park’s technical director insisted it would be no ‘circus’.
“They will not be doing tricks or juggling, they will be behaving naturally,” Timothy Husband told The National, while also revealing that every inhabitant has been donated from other zoos or rescued. “The whole idea is to save these animals from any more hardship and allow them to live out their lives in a safe environment where they no longer need to be treated as beasts of burden.
“The animals are [ones] that cannot be returned to the wild for one reason or another.”
Earlier this year, it was revealed the 119 hectare site, which is divided into three main villages – African, Arabic, Safari – each with unique features, designs, animals and plants, would work to rehabilitate the exotic pets sadly often disgraded across the UAE.
Announcements have been slowly dripped out in the media in the recent months, the most recent of which that ‘air-conditioned rocks’ would be dotted around the park to help cool both animals and visitors.
Details of the park’s central hub, a Dhs151 million construction project, was also released. The centrepiece will feature a 1,000-seat theatre, a clean energy production garden, and an interactive garden for children. It is due for completion at the end of 2016.
Elsewhere, we know the park will use solar energy and that ‘a hybrid operational system will be used to run the irrigation network, which will also include water recycling, waste disposal and other recycling facilities’.
In fact, the sprawling site will be home to almost 10,500 animals from around the world, including around 350 species of rare and endangered animals.
And if horticulture is your thing, 100s of different kinds of plants and trees will be used in one of the five major areas.
You might even find something in the architecture that tickles your fancy. South African-born company Cape Reed certainly hope so; the group have worked on around 15 different structures within the park, using ‘sustainable thamnochortus inignis’ (also known as ‘cape reed’) woven in such a way to help control the climate in a far superior way to traditional buildings. These will be at the heart of the African Village, and among the buildings are the giraffe feeding area, hippo viewing area, elephant interaction, an observation tower and tram stations.
An official opening date has yet to be confirmed, although it is expected to be no later than the first couple of months of 2017, with late 2016 still very much an achievable target.