Remember the "Zoo of Horrors" located inside the Fantasy Land amusement park in Riyadh? A place like a hell hole on earth for the animals kept there. Lions in tiny cages, never let out and even a huge grizzly bear wasting away in his prison.
Quick round up for those who haven't heard about the "Hadiqa Abu Jarrah":
I visited this place last year after hearing about it from my friends, and was so utterly disturbed and disgusted by the place I decided to write about it in June to spread the word about such a severe animal rights violation in the Saudi Kingdom.
An online petition addressed to Minister of Wildlife and Riyadh city municipality was created which currently has over 5000 names on it. The plight of the animals even made it to France24 news. The word about the horror zoo spread on social media and some international news channels but only one local media ran the story.
My Youtube videos about the zoo have over 65,000 views on them and the posts about the zoo on Blue Abaya have been seen by over 15,000 people.
Despite all these efforts to try and relocate and save the animals from their cruel destiny, it seemed as no change had happened at Fantasy Land.
Read the original post from June and see the horrific images here:
The follow up post here: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2012/07/horror-zoo-update-saudi-contempt-for.html
Two weeks ago on our way to the Equestrian Club outside Riyadh, I convinced my husband we stop by at the amusement park to check on the animals. The park is in the middle of the desert far out from the city and they have an entrance fee plus the zoo itself has a separate fee. Our plan was to try and get in without paying. We proceeded to the gate to ask about the zoo. To our amazement the guard told us the zoo had been CLOSED!! Could it really be true? This was AMAZING news!
I was so excited and happy at the same time! So many questions popped up, what had happened? Where were the animals now? Why did they shut down?
We went to the reception and asked more questions. They told my husband the Baladia (Riyadh Municipality) had shut down the zoo. They did not know why (I can take a wild guess) nor did they have any information on where the animals went.
This was indeed disturbing. Obviously the Biladia must have somehow heard about the bad conditions and outrage that the zoo had caused, and forced Fahad Al Shuwaier to shut down the zoo. But did they confiscate the animals from him? I doubt it. I have a feeling this was a "save face" operation, to make it look as if they care about the animals, when in fact they just wanted them out of sight.
I recently met with a reporter from Arab News discussing the zoo and other animal rights violations in the Kingdom. She has taken on solving the mystery what happened with the zoo. Hopefully we will hear about it soon.
So as far as we know, the lions, that poor huge grizzly bear, the monkeys, hyenas and other wild animals are still with the owner of this zoo.
If anyone has ANY info on the whereabouts of the animals, please do let us know. Have you seen lions and bears other wild animals in any other amusement parks or events?
The positive thing that came out of this I guess is that it's worth trying to push for change and exposing such horrible treatment of animals in the Kingdom. More awareness should be spread and Saudis taught the proper care and treatment of animals and pets. Many times the problem is just pure ignorance and inexperience of owning pets.
Just a reminder for anyone in Saudi-Arabia wanting to take cat or dog as a pet, please do not buy these animals from the pet shops! They are filthy, kept in unsanitary cages, often infested with diseases such as ring worm, ear mites and other skin diseases. The pet shops have breeding farms where they keep cats and dogs for the sole purpose of breeding as much kittens and puppies as possible with the total disregard of the animals health and well being. Many pet shops also engage in selling endangered species and wild animals. Better not to support these activities at all.
Instead, contact Open Paws organization in Riyadh or Pets In Need in Jeddah. they have plenty of adorable, clean, healthy well looked after cats, kittens, puppies and dogs for adoption.
Here are their websites: Open Paws:
Pets In Need: http://www.facebook.com/groups/24597253992/
Join SPESA The Society for Protection of Exotic and Endangered Animals in Saudi Arabia on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/saudianimals
UPDATE: The zoo was closed by Municipality because it was illegal and they had heard complaints from the public and the petition. Since the animals were illegally smuggled in, they might have to ship them out of Saudi-Arabia but there is no confirmation of the final fate of the animals.
Final update from Arab News by Rima Al Mukhtar: http://www.arabnews.com/illegal-zoo-riyadh-shuttered
"The closure was sparked by animal rights volunteers who complained about the poor treatment of the animals. The park was shut down and the guard at the front gate told an Arab News reporter the animals were moved to another local zoo. "