While the word “zoo”, might bring images of small enclosed spaces and unhappy animals, the Al Ain Zoo, sometimes known as Al Ain Wildlife Park, couldn’t be anymore different. Though it does have animal exhibits, this place holds value and importance for conservation and gives its wildlife inhabitants plenty of space to run around, constant veterinary care and even has programs to help save threatened species. This has led them to become the best zoo in UAE.
Opened in 1969, it has become one of the most popular outdoor places to visit in UAE (United Arab Emirates). Being the home to over 4000 animals, even the almost extinct white lion, the rare Dama Gazelle and Oryxs, Al Ain Zoo is located in the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountains and stretches over 900 acres (and expanding) which makes it the biggest zoo in UAE and the Middle East.
The zoo is best visited during the months of December to February when temperatures are low and walking around wouldn’t exhaust you. That said, no matter when you choose to visit you can buy the Al Ain Zoo tickets for discounted prices (both general entrance and safaris) in this link.
If this didn’t convince you enough to visit the zoo yet, here are six more reasons to why Al Ain Zoo should be on the top of your list and what makes it the best place to visit in UAE during winter.
From Penguins to River Nile Crocodiles
The Al Ain Zoo has made a name for itself for housing several dozen animals in its care from threatened, endangered, and rare species that are extinct in the wild. The zoo breeds them to help increase its numbers. With vast spaces and plenty to go around, visitors can see all sorts of healthy wildlife from apes (gorillas, monkeys, and chimpanzees), wildcats (lions, tigers, cheetahs and the lot), African safari animals, lemurs, mere cats, reptiles, and birds (which also includes penguins and ostriches).
The zoo also has exhibits of crocodiles and hippos where you can see them up close resting in their tanks from behind a glass. An exhibit called “The Oasis” lets visitors spot predators like cheetahs, hyenas, jaguars, pumas and the Nile Crocodile going about their space from a long distance from above.
The zoo also has a nocturnal house that exhibits different kinds of night species including porcupines, foxes, badgers and bats. You should note that photography is forbidden in this area due to flashes that can stress out or harm the creatures. According to their website, the zoo is said to add more animals including elephants, Koalas and other species. Check out their website for more details of their new inhabitants.
See The Near-Extinct Dama Gazelles
Extinct in the wild with the last known sighting in 1968, the Dama Gazelle numbers are on a serious decline. With a distinguishing colour of half white-half brown, these African horned gazelles were wiped out due to hunting, oil exploration and livestock herding.
Al Ain Zoo is the only zoo in the world that houses these beautiful animals and is working on bringing up their numbers with a conservation program called “Dama Gazelle Conservation Strategy 2019–2028, as per WAM. This strategy works on reducing the cause of their extinction along with captive breeding.
With plenty of space to run around in the zoo, the Mhorr Gazelles, the Dama subscpecies, welcome visitors with an exhibit right at the entrance while maintaining a very safe distance from human interaction.
One of the many things that Al Ain Zoo gets right is recreating the animal’s habitats according to their wild environment in a large area with enough space for them to go around. They aren’t enclosed in glass or bar cages and visitors can spot them from a safe distance which makes Al Ain Zoo the only nature reserve in UAE and the Middle East that has worked on preserving and maintaining the natural habitats of its wildlife inhabitants.
Having large enough space for each animal also means that visitors will need to walk quite a bit and can easily pass around 4 hours walking in the zoo. But this isn’t a hassle as the hours might suggest. Instead, the zoo is filled with greenery that recreates a feeling of the wild with large trees brought in from different parts of Africa and even Mexico.
Streams with small arching bridges also flow in parts of the zoo which gives you the feeling that you are in the space of the animals and not the other way around.
Animal conservation and breeding
It isn’t just the Mhorr Gazelles that have special attention. Al Ain Zoo holds importance and high regard for conservation. They breed other rare and threatened species like the Sandcats, Arabian Oryx and the Hirola antelope, per their website. This zoo and conservation centre claims to have bred more than 200 Oryx in the zoo and plans to return them to their native wild lands of Africa.
They also provide veterinary care to rescue animals and endangered species and are reported to have done so for more than 4000 animals in the zoo.
Another section called the Animal Health centre provides proper health-supportive and medical care for animals in serious health conditions where they are kept on watch with extended treatments. The zoo also has multiple nurseries to care for baby animals born prematurely or with any conditions which need observation and extra care, per Gulf Today.
The wildlife park/zoo has also taken extra steps in educating its visitors by placing information about the animals and their status (endangered, extinct, least threatened etc) in front of their exhibits as a step to inform the world about caring for Earth’s creatures.
The humungous birdhouse
One of Al Ain Zoo’s distinctive features is its humungous walk-through birdcage styled as if it was inspired by the Pterodactyl cage in Jurassic Park III. With multiple heavy, steel doors, these “cages” are completely walk-through for visitors with raised platforms and slopes.
You can go inside the cages and see the birds up close as they swoop above your head. That said, you can’t hope to touch them as these feathery beauties know to stay away from a stranger’s hand and their nests are from your reach. These huge “cages” can actually accommodate dozens of people in it without crowding and security ensures that the wildlife is not troubled by the human numbers.
Al Ain Zoo Safari
Another reason that makes this place popular is the famous Al Ain Zoo Safari. A replica of the African Game Drives in its nature reserves, this safari takes you through the inlands of the wildlife park where you can see giraffes, lions, zebras, and rhinos.
Some of these animals can also be seen outside of the safari. That said, the lions and giraffes have separate exhibits outside the safari where you can see both white and brown lions. If you arrive at feeding time, you can also see them munching on some chewy red meat. There are different prices for the safaris and it’s priced according to the vehicle you choose. While it might seem expensive, you can get it for discounted rates on this link.
Food stalls and eateries
After your long walks, or even in the midst of it, you can stop for some drinks and bites from the various stalls located around the zoo. You can buy anything from teas, juices, snacks or full-course meals.
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