Ever since I heard about a zoo called “Hadiqa Abu Jarrah” in Riyadh from a friend who told me how horrific the conditions of the animals kept there were, I’ve been wanting to go there to see for myself what the situation is. So when we finally got the chance to go, it became apparent that the zoo was much worse than I had imagined. I’ve actually never seen animals being treated so bad in my entire life, despite having lived in many developing countries where animals rights are the last thing on anyone’s mind. I never saw anything even remotely comparable to this utter misery! And here we are in Saudi-Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world, a land where people are supposed to hold up to Islamic teachings.
Places like this zoo and the Muslims who are responsible for it might give some people the impression that Islam in fact, enforces torture and evil acts toward animals. In reality Islam teaches kindness toward all living beings including animals. There are numerous Hadith teaching good treatment and respect toward animals. Here is one which clearly indicates animal rights are an important issue in Islam and that punishment will follow for animal rights offenders:
“A lady was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered the (Hell) Fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” (Bukhari Vol.4, Book 56, #689)
The five basic rights of animals according to Islam: http://www.openpaws.org/fly/rights_of_animals.pdf
The actual “zoo” which is in reality only a few small metal cages placed next to each other, is located inside the Fantasy Land amusement park on Thumamah Road. The animals have absolutely nothing inside the miserable dirty cages. The animals can see and hear each other at all times which will cause even more stress to them. There were many ill looking, poorly animals there as well. The cages are outside in a hall with no air-conditioning or heating. Most shockingly they had large animals such as a grizzly bear and adult lions in tiny cages. The animals are never let out of the cages and there is only one zoo keeper taking care of them all.
These animals are in urgent need of help! Seeing the the zoo in all its horror and the animals there looking like they lived in hell on earth made me extremely, extremely MAD. There are not many things in this world that upset me as much as mistreatment of animals, children and women. So I decided to write this post to spread awareness of the appalling conditions of the animals held at Hadiqa Abu Jarrah.
We can try and find a solution for these animals and all you readers out there can help to get these animals out of there to a safer and more humane environment. They will always be captive, but at least they deserve proper food, water and places to sleep in, places to walk and run around in, resting areas for peace and quiet and shelter from hot and cold. No living being should be imprisoned in this way and kept in inhumane conditions.
Read what YOU can do at the end of this post!!
According to the zookeeper, the owner has had this grizzly bear for 10 years. We were told it was smuggled in as a baby from the U.S. Wouldn’t that be an offence punishable by a jail sentence in the States, to smuggle out an endangered species? Saudi-Arabia does not have animal protection laws and the law banning trafficking of endangered animals is clearly not enforced whatsoever, which can be seen by going into any petshop in the Kingdom.
The tigers or the pumas in the pictures were currently not in the zoo. We were told by the zookeeper that the owner regularly takes some of the animals around the Kingdom to display them. The tigers are supposedly on display in Medinah at the moment.
Placing a huge wild animal such as a tiger in a 3x3m cage is utterly disgusting. Having them regularly transported in those cages all over the country is even more disturbing.
This is the male lion which looked like it needed immediate veterinarian attention when we saw it.
This is the owner’s son pictured inside the hyenas cage, WHILE the hyena is having its dinner. Hyenas are such peaceful, mindful eaters right?!! Anyone who ever watched hyena documentaries on National Geographic channel showcasing how these ferocious predators eat their food and react to potential threats to their meal would know just how foolish and potentially dangerous this actually is.
Back to the grizzly. This must be the world’s saddest, most depressed bear. He looks into the eyes of the visitor with such plea it is simply heart wrenching to watch.
The bear never in its entire life in Saudi Arabia got out of his prison cell, if you don’t count the photo sessions with “Abu Jarrah”. The zoo keeper was too afraid to even think of opening its cage in fear for his life. Grizzlies, like all bears in the wild roam around extensive areas, they actually quite active, they have social contacts with each other and they also hibernate. I doubt this bear ever had the chance to have any of those things.
I guess this informative sign speaks for itself about the expertise and knowledge of the wild animals kept there.
The zoo also has domestic dogs in one cage.
The sickly male lion didn’t have energy to move at all during our visit. When I stood in front of his cage, he didn’t even look up. My stomach turned from rage, how could any human do this to a living being?
The sign says “do not feed the animals”. The zoo keeper told us he feeds the animals every other day. Most of the more active hunting predators such as this coyote and hyenas were pacing around the cages endlessly in the same monotonous way, barking and howling and occasionally attacking or biting each other, probably from sheer stress.
The animals eat, sleep and eliminate in the same space. These two lionesses live in a cage about 4 x 5 metres in size.
A beautiful lioness dreaming of Africa perhaps..The man working there told us he had let some of the lions out to an area in the back of the zoo a few times. I pleaded him to let them out while we were there to show us this place. He told me absolutely no, because he once had a female reporter there and the lion had tried to attack her wounding her badly. The zookeeper said getting the lion back inside the cage is almost impossible, so that’s why he rarely even tries to take them out.
Here is a link to the news article of this very incident which happened to a female reporter named Asmahan Al-Ghamdi, a female editor working at the national Saudi newspaper, Al-Riyadh. http://www.emirates247.com/news/region/female-saudi-journalist-attacked-by-lions-2011-07-17-1.408180
The man also showed me video footage from his phone which had a clip of one of the lions suddenly getting up and attacking the zookeepers friend from behind. He just barely manages to escape the attack.
The young lion seemed fond of his keeper, who talked to him and the lion came to greet him. At least it’s good to know the worker seems to be kind toward them and not abusive!
A few fans were placed here and there around the hall, no heaters or shelter from the weather. During Saudi winters the night time temperatures can drop near 0 Celcius (32F) and in the summer temperatures soar to the high 40s daily reaching up to 53C (127C). This places the animals in great risk of hypothermia or heat stroke and dehydration.
A baby monkey which was placed next to the bear looked pretty much frightened out of his mind and despite being locked up inside the cage had a rope tied to one of its legs.Here is a video clip I took when I visited the zoo. You can see the following animals: A grizzly, a lioness, a coyote, baboons, hedgehogs or porcupines, eagles and other birds, a male lion, domestic dogs, another fox or coyote, two more lions, hyenas and wild dogs, all placed in a small outdoor hall.
The zoo of horrors has been haunting me. I contacted some groups I knew on FB that work for animal rights in KSA. Er7amni Animal Rights Group has now started helping these animals by sending some letters to the Ministry of Agriculture. We’ve been waiting for results but it seems no change has happened and the animals still remain in their misery. Something more needs to be done, so I decided to write this post and that is why I’m reaching out for YOUR help!
I’m sure many reading this are upset and know that animals just like humans can sense pain and even emotions such as boredom, excitement, joy, frustration and fear. The only thing animals can’t do is speak out and tell us. We need to give them our voices.
Certainly people out there like me are worried for the well-being of these poor animals and feel a deep sadness about their current state. The animals are the innocent victims of men who seek only money and fame from them.
No soul deserves such a fate.
PLEASE help these animals by doing one or all of the following:
1. Share this post with your friends inside and outside Saudi-Arabia
2. Sign this petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/minister-of-wildlife-hrh-prince-bandar-and-riyadh-city-municipality-shut-down-abu-jarrah-s-zoo-relocate-and-treat-the-rescued-animals
Then share it!
3.Write an email to the following addresses telling them about the zoo and cruel treatment of animals there:
National Wildlife Conservation, Mohammed Malki: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can use the photos from this post and explain how you are worried about the animals in this zoo and wish to see them relocated to a better and safer place.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/325/618/503/stop-animal-cruelty-in-saudi-arabia/SPESA Society for the Protection of Endangered Animals in Saudi-Arabia: http://www.facebook.com/groups/165592253458342/
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the author of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. I’ve been traveling around and exploring Saudi Arabia since 2008.
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