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The New Arab

World's largest man-made safari park opens in UAE

Visitors will be able to see over 250 animals in their natural habitat [BBC]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2016

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The world's largest man-made safari park will open on Wednesday in the UAE's al-Ain Emirate, allowing visitor and adventure seekers to see hundreds of animals in their natural habitat.

Adventure seekers in the Gulf will no longer have to travel thousands of kilometers to enjoy an African safari experience, as a zoo in the United Arab Emirates has brought the experience to their doorsteps.

The world's largest man-made safari park is opening its doors in the Emirate of al-Ain on Wednesday, allowing nature and animal lovers to closely observe more than 250 animals in their natural habitat.

Extending over 217 hectares - the size of 304 football pitches - the new safari park will include Arabian and African animals, such as the scimitar oryx, springbok, eland, blesbok, giraffe, zebra and lion, as well aso 38 native and African plants.

To minimise any potential impact on the environment, 2,500 plants and trees were moved during construction and then replanted after building work was completed.

"Al-Ain Safari has been masterfully crafted out of the desert environment to incorporate its pristine surrounds," al-Ain Zoo director general Ghanim al-Hajeri told Emirati website The National.

"The experience will be unique, being driven entirely by Emirati tour guides. This will emphasise local traditions and warm hospitality, drawing on an unrivalled passion for the UAE's proud heritage."

Many more species will be introduced, including crocodiles and hippos, housed in an enclosure that makes it possible to view them both above and under the water, said al-Ain Zoo safari manager Luke Brown, from Zimbabwe.

A large hotel overlooking the safari park is also under construction, with hopes to attract foreign tourists.

Tickets for the safari experience cost 200 Dirhams ($54) for a seat on a vehicle that allows great views of the animals. Private cars are also available for 1,000 Dirhams ($272).

Extending over 217 hectares, the new safari park will include Arabian and African animals, such as the scimitar oryx, springbok, eland, blesbok, giraffe, zebra and lion, as well aso 38 native and African plants.

"These developments are just the beginning," Hajeri said, adding that the new project would position the city of al-Ain as a distinctive tourist destination, both locally and regionally.

"This will support Abu Dhabi's vision towards a diverse economy not dependent on oil."

The al-Ain Safari at al-Ain Zoo is part of an expansion project, which includes the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre, also now open.

Described as the UAE's first sustainable building, the learning centre is also the first to achieve a Five Pearl rating from Estidama ["sustainability"] and a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum certification.

A philosophy of sustainability and conservation guided the project from its beginning, with 92 percent of construction waste either recycled, reused or reduced, Hajeri explained.

"The centre will teach visitors the importance of sustainability and preserving resources," he added.

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