Sana’a Zoo: Animals on the hill [Archives:2006/912/Culture]

January 16 2006

Birds of prey, predators, domestic birds, etc. await the visitor of Sana'a Zoo. Located in the southeastern zone of the capital city, the zoo, the first of the kind in Sana'a, drew in huge crowds of people during the Eid time who wanted to enjoy their holiday.

Cages were scattered on the hilly area exhibiting a variety of different types of animals. Children and adults alike gathered to acquaint themselves with the exotic appearance of creatures they might have viewed their pictures or just heard about them. Amusement was discernable in their faces.

You may smile or even laugh when you see the playful baboons swinging or making funny gestures in the spacious roofless cage. You can contemplate the beauty, magnificence and majesty of the peacocks swaggering on green meadow. You can hear the menacing roar of lions incumbent among barren crags.

You can view the vulture, rock hyrax, and spiny tailed lizard, not to mention the python, sea tortoise, crocodile, hyena, and many others.

Less room to roam

Eng. Adel al-Mujahid who particularly appreciated the inclusion of the Nile crocodile and the Australian ostrich to the group of animals was happy to see the improvements made to the zoo which makes it “visitor-catching.” He complained, however, that it is “small-sized with no optimal use of its area.” accompanying his family, he couldn't find a suitable place to sit. “More services should be provided and more bare areas should be grassed,” he added.

Abdu Abu al-Ghaith, who came with his 9-member family, showed his surprise at the huge number of visitors. “When we visited it the other day, we could see only a few people.” At the reptiles section, one with difficulty can make his way through the crowd to see the animals displayed inside glass boxes.

Because of overcrowded space, they were obliged to take just a quick tour and leave. He wished the zoo could be enlarged but that is unlikely as houses surround it.

People crammed in the relatively limited space of the zoo do not only create an inconvenience for visitors. Jamil al-Juma'i, a zookeeper, expressed his dissatisfaction at the fact that, due to the high intake of visitors, trees, iron barriers, and other stuff get damaged. “People don't find suitable places in the zoo to spend a few minutes before they exit. They may sit wherever they can manage to and this results in damage to our stuff,” he said.

Mohammed al-Bayadhi, 22, expressed his happiness at the current status of the zoo in terms of contents, cultivation and organization. “Because it lies in the vicinity of our house,” he said, “I have visited it tens of times. There was negligence in the past perhaps because it was in its infant stage. Now it is organized with lots of animals like tigers. Now I am pleased with its shape and it is worth visiting.”

Concerning overcrowdedness, Al-Bayadhi admitted that he couldn't comfortably see all the animals, attributing the inconvenience to “randomness.” He, however, imparted his wish for establishing a larger zoo for the residents of the capital city.

Zoo's sections

The zoo is divided into a number of sections such as those for predators, reptiles, birds of prey, and domestic birds in addition to a section for monkeys.

A wide range of herbivorous, carnivorous and omnivorous animals can be seen including wolves, foxes, ostriches, squirrels, honey badger, mongooses, larks, cobras, etc.

The predators are fed the flesh of donkeys, cows and goats. By procreating enough rabbits, mice, and chicks for nourishing flesh-eaters, the zoo will be covering quarter of the feeding cost. The rest of the animals are given vegetables, fruits and grains as well as honey.

Concerning the absence of some animals such as the elephant, and giraffe, Eng. Ali Humaid, director of the zoo, responded that the zoo is considering the procurement of elephants from Africa as they did the pythons. However, he pointed out the difficulty in the case of the giraffe. “The giraffe cannot live in Sana'a because the local climate doesn't fit it,”

This zoo was established on May 30, 1999, on a 57816-square-meter area. Inspired by an older zoo in the city of Taiz, 260 kms south of Sana'a, the zoo was meant partly to provide a place for Sana'a residents where they can spend recreational times, partly to contribute to the efforts aimed at rescuing indigenous species.

“Some of the Yemeni animals are rare and threatened with extinction,” said Humaid. “The Yemeni ibex and tiger exist only in Yemen and they are endangered. There are as well other types of falcons and gazelles which are susceptible to extinction. We tried to bring them in and provide the proper conditions so that they can reproduce.”

Asked about whether the zoo includes all indigenous animals, he replied that all of them are almost available except for the lesser Indian civet found on the island of Socotra. “We brought it many times but it died. The next time we bring it, we hope it will not die because we will provide the necessary conditions that suits it,” he asserted.

The zoo succeeded in increasing the number of lions, tigers and ibexes. Lions, for example, reproduced until they exceeded the desired target in number and they may be sent to other zoos in the future.

Eng. Humaid, who was appointed director of the zoo in 2005, commented on the obvious signs of improvement. “The process was gradual. Everything starts small and then gets bigger.” The bettering was matched by a parallel increase in the number of visitors. One year ago, the number of visitors over the Eid holiday was estimated at 20,000 persons while, this year, some 60,000 persons visited the zoo over four days of the Eid holiday.

The zoo's administration has its plans for the future: installing more cages for animals, grassing bare areas, digging a pool for swans, expanding the dimensions of bird cages, procuring non-Arabian leopards, and opening an aquarium featuring marine organisms.

The zoo is often visited by students from schools, institutes and colleges to get a first hand impression of the animals they read about in books. “Such visits are vital for the effective learning. The theoretical knowledge should be enhanced and consolidated by authentic experiences,” said Abdullah al-Zikri, an assistant vet at the zoo.

According to the director, Arab and foreign visitors showed their admiration of the zoo for its hilly topography. “Despite the limited resources, we try to enable people to see what they want to,” said Humaid.

The zoo has a slaughterhouse and a veterinary clinic. The latter supervises the hygiene, health and reproduction of animals. Ali al-Najjar and Abdullah al-Zikri, assistant vets, said that the Arabian leopard, which is a very rare animal, could be reproduced in the zoo. They also succeeded in making the Russian lioness reproduce and in saving its cubs which it kills sometimes. They isolated offspring from mother. They had a problem finding a suitable food for reptiles but they thought of increasing the number of chicks.

There are also mummified animals: lions, tigers, ibexes etc. “Those which die, we preserve their corpses by means of special chemicals,” said al-Zikri.

Despite its shortcomings, the zoo has proved itself to be a spot that much attracts Sana'a residents' attention. It is a destination sought by many people as it features distinctive stuff that ensures interesting pastime. Establishing a typical zoo seems to be a must.