23 October 2009

Went to the Zoo today

The zoo in Al Ain is currently under construction - as is everything else in this country, only unlike all the buildings that they put up it is going very slow. After this multi-billion dirham rennovation is over it will be the Al Ain Wildlife Resort, some sort of very expensive something with hotels, apartment buildings and I don't know what. Only being in Abu Dhabi it is all advertised as if it is already there. It is not already there, for all the advertisement it is still almost the same as it was when I was there two years ago. Although there are some new additions. There is a whole new big cat enclosure and it is quite nice. A lot of lions there, some pumas. Only one tiger. And apparently bears but we didn't see any. Wrong climate though so they were probably all hiding asleep somewhere.

There is an Arabian enclosure and a large African area. There is going to be more desert area eventually and what they call an African Safari. There are huge vultures and eagles in a large enclosure labelled peacocks. But at the same time >some of the old enclosures are still there, for instance the ape-house is quite old, and it is not very nice. There are chimps and orangutangs there, and while they have quite a lot to play with there is no grass and trees, just concrete.

The thing about the new development is that while it is called a conservation park and they are making a great big conservation/breeding programme centre, really it is all about money. This resort will be complexes of apartments and hotels, restaurants, spas, all with a 'wildlife conservation' theme. But really it is not much better than the Atlantis resort. It will be a little better but only because it was a zoo first and resort second. Atlantis on the other hand says that it is rescuing marine wildlife, but really they have gone out and caught wildlife such as the dolphins that they now keep in their artificial lagoons and the sharks in their great big aquarium. It is not about conservation, it's far more about tourism.

It was the right time of year here in UAE to go to the zoo though. Baby animals! Baby deer, baby meercats. A really cute baby monkey that came over and poked it's face through the fence at me. And there where some cute capuchin monkeys and this family had been feeding them popcorn, throwing it near the fence and the monkey's would poke their hands through and take it. Then the security man cam and told them off and crushed all the popcorn onto the sand so that the monkeys couldn't get it. And of course the family played ignorant but there are signs everywhere saying don't feed the animals.

Then there was the aviary, the really big sort where you can walk inside. And ofe course it has double doors, where you walk through one, let it close and then go through the other and no birds get out. Only the springs that close the doors don't seem to work very well because all the doors were open. And on top of the aviary was a great big bird, I think maybe some sort of pelican. And it looks like he has just wandered out of those open doors and made his way up there. And he was just sitting up there, doing not much. But how on earth will they get this bird down? He's huge, and really high up. If they could get up there he'd fly off, and if they tranquilised him he'd fall down. Maybe he'll just go back in the aviary when he get's hungry.

There is a bird house isolated away on the other side of the zoo. Most of the birds are not that interesting, it's a bit small and sparse. But then there are penguins. It is so strange to see penguins in a big indoor pool, in a hot country. They just hang out, floating, diving a bit, doing not much. They mostly weren't interested in us but like magpies seemed to like shiny things. They saw my sunglasses, I must have been holding them in front of the window. They came up and just sort of hung out in front of us, following the sunglasses around as I waved them in front of the window, and biting the other penguins that tried to come over for a look.

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