Penguins go on show at Ski Dubai
Feb 1, 2012
Animal rights group says project is about cash, not conservation
DUBAI // They have a staff of 13 "butlers" to cater for their every need, they dine on restaurant-quality fish and they enjoy the lifestyle of respected diplomatic ambassadors.
Best of all, since they live in a Dubai shopping mall, the prospect of a hunting pack of killer whales arriving to turn them into lunch is minimal.
All in all, therefore, life is sweet for the penguin colony that arrived at Ski Dubai at the beginning of the year and will be on show to the public from Sunday.
Before arriving in the UAE, the birds were part of a breeding programme at SeaWorld in Texas.
Ten of them penguins are king penguins, the second largest type, and the others are gentoo penguins, identifiable by a wide white stripe extending across their heads.
Ski Dubai has built a housing area and pool at the resort to resemble an Antarctic environment.
A staff of 13, including a penguin curator in charge of the well-being of the birds, was brought in from different parts of the world.
"The penguins live like they have butlers," said Tom Scheffer, Ski Dubai's operations manager. "A vet comes every two weeks. They have their own lunch boxes, with restaurant-quality capelin fish imported from Canada."
The animal-rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is critical, and says Ski Dubai "only acquired penguins for profit". Peta's Asia-Pacific senior campaigner, Ashley Fruno, said: "If they really cared about penguins, they would leave them alone."
Mr Scheffer, however, insists the project is more than just a commercial enterprise. "We're raising awareness about the conservation needed to sustain their natural habitat," he said.
"We ask the birds what they want to do, we never force them. As ambassadors of their species, for them we only have utmost respect."
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, visited the penguins on Sunday and named one of them Hadi, Arabic for calm.
Penguins at SkiDubai spark ire of animal rights activistsDUBAI: Animal rights activists across the Middle East are outraged over the introduction of penguins into Dubai’s indoor SkiDubai facility. A number of young activists told Bikyamasr.com on Wednesday that the animals “should be in their natural habitat and not exploited in the desert.”
The penguins, 10 King penguins, were born in captivity in San Antonio’s SeaWorld and have been flown to Dubai to be on display as the new Snow Penguins exhibit at the facility, which allows residents and visitors to ski year-round in the extreme desert heat.
The new exhibit will officially open on February 5. Fahad al-Lawati, manager commercial and communications for Majid al-Futtaim, told Gulf News that the new attraction will offer “a unique experience” to visitors in the coming years.
But activists, such as online animal rights supporter Reham Abdel-Majid, think differently, condemning the move and saying it will continue to perpetuate the idea that animals can, and should, be in captivity.
“What this does is waste precious power on a project that shouldn’t be here to begin with. Now add in animals, which have been in captivity their whole life and we are teaching the younger generation that we can do whatever they want,” she said.
She told Bikyamasr.com that she plans on writing a letter to the Dubai municipal government calling on them to remove the penguin exhibit.
“I doubt it will do much, but it is the least we can do as supporters of a cruelty-free lifestyle,” she added.
The facility said that some 20 public penguin encounters will be scheduled daily where visitors would be given the opportunity to have time and underwater viewing of the birds swimming.
Visitors at all times will be accompanied by staff. Personal cameras will not be allowed into the enclosure, SkiDubai said.
Tom Scheffer, SkiDubai operations manager, said in comments published by Gulf News that “We’re the first in the Middle East to have King penguins in our colony.”