JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
Published — Tuesday 12 February 2013
Last update 12 February 2013 4:13 pm
The Riyadh Municipality shut down an illegal zoo at the popular amusement center Fantasyland for allegedly having exotic animals without a permit.
The Saudi Wildlife moved the animals to a safer place until further notice. The rest of the amusement was temporarily closed, but is now open.
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.
“The park did not have a permit to bring and display wild animals or pets in the matter of fact,” said Tawfiq Al-Hammad, general manager of gardens and environment development at the Riyadh Municipality.
“It was supposed to be a regular amusement and water park with swings, children’s playgrounds and places where families can picnic.”
He added: “The park was not shut down. The Wildlife Commission only took the animals away to a governmental zoo in Riyadh until we decide where to take them next. This might take a while, but we placed them in a safer place where we trust they will be treated better and have all the care they need.”
The Riyadh Municipality have received many complains about the park from visitors, volunteers and the police as well.
“We have seen many protests against the park and have reported to the Wildlife Commission who looked at it in response to citizens’ demands,” Al-Hammad said. “We found out that the park is not licensed to have a zoo section.
Al-Hammad said the municipality is yet to know how they got the animals inside the Kingdom because it required a license from the Municipality and the Wildlife Commission.
“I would think they smuggled them in illegally,” he said.
Riyadh police participated in the closure decision following an incident where a lion attacked a female journalist in Riyadh on July 2011.
The incident prompted the municipality to collect all the paperwork required to shut the zoo.
“It took longer time because it is not a governmental park. It is owned by a local businessman who broke the law and saw this coming,” he said. “The Wildlife Commission and the Municipality had sent warnings to the park owner but he never followed it and now we have done what we had to do a long time ago.”