Animal Welfare in Dubai

June 22nd 2022
Written by: Melania
Camel Experience Dubai

When it comes to holidays in Dubai or anywhere in the world, interaction with animals can be an unforgettable and rewarding experience. As rewarding as this can be, the last thing we want is to have animals suffer for our entertainment. You might wonder if it’s ethical to experience some of the popular activities in Dubai, such as camel riding, falcon shows or other wildlife activities? People often express concerns about that; to help you make an informed decision for your next trip to Dubai, we had a look at animal welfare and how well they are taken care of.

Why is Animal Welfare important?

There are so many animals suffering around the world being used for entertainment, food, medicine, fashion, scientific advancement or exotic pets. Every animal deserves to enjoy a good life and the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst.
  • Freedom from discomfort.
  • Freedom from pain, injury, or disease.
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour.
  • Freedom from fear and distress.

Camel riding

Is camel riding in Dubai ethical?

Travellers may assume that training and riding a camel is cruel, but this is not the case. You don’t need to break their spirits to ride them; camels are quite easy to domesticate and were first domesticated more than 5,000 years ago. To win a camel’s heart is with kindness; they form very close bonds with their handlers, which is why they allow people to ride them. They are often loved by their handlers and looked after, making them happier and healthier than foraging in the wild.

Photo Credit: Platinum Heritage

Does riding harm camels? And how much can they carry?

The UK-based Born Free Foundation has no evidence that riding camels hurt them – article here. Camels are called “ships of the desert” for a good reason: an adult camel can travel up to 40km (25 miles) a day and can carry up to 590kg (1,300 pounds) on its back with excellent surviving skills that allow them to travel ten days without water.

Photo credit: ShuGa Photography

Where can I ride camels ethically?

If you choose to ride a camel, do the ‘camel-check’ before choosing your operator. If the camel looks settled and calm, he will chew its cud. A camel will bring some of its stomach contents into its mouth and mix them with saliva (this is called cud). Clear eyes and good skin without scars caused by saddle rubbing are good signs! If you want to ride a camel in Dubai ethically, we recommend Platinum Heritage as they look after their camels; they get dedicated off days and “work” only a few hours per day. They have an interesting article for further information here: Treatment of Camels on Dubai Desert Safaris.

Photo Credit: Platinum Heritage

Zoos and Aquariums in Dubai

What does a good Zoo/Aquarium provide?

Reputable Zoos or Aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are held to high standards for treating their resident animals. According to AZA, its accreditation guarantees that the organisation has undergone strict evaluation by recognised experts to ensure the highest standards of “animal management and care”, including:

  • Plenty of space
  • An enriched habitat in which animals are
  • never bored and
  • well cared for
  • Social groupings
  • Health
  • Nutrition

How do zoos and aquariums protect endangered species?

Many animal rights activists believe the cost of confining animals outweighs the benefits. They also think that even though it could help in fighting extinction, it’s still not justified. Conservationists on the other hand, argue that zoos save endangered species and that most modern zoos focus on creating awareness and being educational. Some endangered species might have trouble finding mates and breeding in the wild, therefore they risk becoming extinct. By providing animals with a safe environment protected from poachers, habitat loss and predators, zoos and aquariums are essentially protecting those animals on the verge of extinction.

Where can I visit an ethically operated aquarium?

Whether you are for or against visiting zoos, both sides argue for the same reason: Saving animal lives! Make sure to visit zoos where their zoo conditions are the best possible for the animals living in captivity. One of the places you can visit in Dubai, accredited by AZA for their commitment to welfare is The Lost Chambers at Atlantis Dubai.

Photo Credit: Atlantis, The Palm

Marine Conservation in Dubai

Why is marine conservation important?

The marine and coastal environment of the UAE holds great economic, social and environmental importance. It is not only a significant artery for trade with the outside world but also an essential source of oil production, desalination and fishing. Most economic and social activities are held there, and an interesting fact: It encompasses the majority of the population and biodiversity.

How is marine life protected in the UAE?

Efforts made by specialised authorities to protect the marine environment include:

  • Implementing laws and regulations to protect it from pollution
  • Regulate activities in the marine environment or the coastal strip
  • Establish marine protected areas
  • Conservation and development of biodiversity

How can I contribute to marine conservation?

If you like to go fishing, Dubai is an excellent place to do so. The UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment implemented an Annual Calendar with Fishing Regulations. This calendar defines Ban and Open seasons to ensure sustainable fisheries. One of the main priorities is to limit the harmful effects of waste and chemicals. For a thrilling and unique experience in Dubai committed to marine conservation, we recommend a self-drive boat tour with HERO OdySea. They have an article named Marine Conservation in Dubai with HERO OdySea about their marine clean-ups, in which they reduce the harmful effects of plastic on marine life by collecting plastic from the water.

Photo credit: Hero OdySea

Falcon shows

Some travellers believe that the falcons in falcon shows are wild falcons that have been captured. The majority of falcons in Dubai are bred and raised in optimal conditions, with dedicated falconers that take care of them and train them. Falcons are the country’s national bird and therefore appear on road signs and the currency, so learning about these creatures can be fascinating.

Falcons are significant in Dubai as in the past, falconry was crucial for survival in the desert, and the Bedouins would use them for hunting to get their meat. They would trap the falcon at the beginning of the winter season, train them and then release them before summer hit and it was too hot for them. The falcons would then continue on their typical migratory paths to cooler areas without harm. Interesting fact: Falcons hold an Emirati passport and fly first class when travelling abroad with their rich handlers.

Photo credit: ShuGa Photography

How does falcon training work?

Falconry was turned into a sport practised by nobility and royalty in the region. Hunting with falcons is no longer legal, but many still practice the art of falconry by having the bird fly to a lure. Unfortunately, and very rarely, you may witness the horrific act of a live dove on the lure, as this is how they would train them to hunt. Before going to watch a falcon show, ensure this is not what they do. Most falconers use ethically sourced French quail, contributing to a healthy diet for the falcon. They are usually only flown once a day, and their behaviour with falcon shows mimics their natural environment. When flying to the lure, the falcons think they are ‘hunting’ and don’t realise that it’s not natural prey that they are swooping. Being exercised daily in this fashion is very beneficial to the falcon.

Photo credit: ShuGa Photography

Why are the falcon’s eyes covered?

Another misconception surrounding falcons is that using the hood or, in Arabic: ‘burka’ is cruel. The primary sense that a falcon relies on is its eyesight which attributes to about 80% of its total senses. Their sight is incredibly sharp – they can even spot small prey from considerable distances. Covering a falcon’s eyes calms the bird and is where the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes from. As long as the hood isn’t used for excessively long periods, the falcons generally do not mind wearing the burka, and they are always made to fit the birds comfortably with very little stress to put on and off.

Photo credit: ShuGa Photography

Where can I watch ethical falcon shows?

Suppose you want to enjoy a show with qualified falconers that love their falcons and look after them like beloved pets. We recommend an extraordinary experience with Balloon Adventures Dubai, falcons in their care will live over twice as long as their wild counterparts. This fantastic spectacle takes place on a ‘Private hot air balloon with falcon’ and includes a world-class falcon show from a hot air balloon over the Dubai desert so you can see them up close in the sky where they belong. After this memorable falcon show, enjoy a gourmet breakfast in an authentic Bedouin camp.

Photo credit: Balloon Adventures Dubai

Wild Animals in Dubai

People don’t often associate native animals with Dubai, but the desert used to be teaming with life. With the destructive introduction of ‘dune bashing’, many animals were lost. Dune bashing kills the natural environment that the animals live in by tearing it up and especially considering 95% of animals that live underground get buried in the practice. Not only do some creatures’ houses get destroyed, but also plants which are essential for survival for the Arabian Oryx and Gazelles. With only 8 recorded species left in the wild in the 1960s, the Arabian Oryx was basically extinct. The ruler, His Highness Sheikh Zayed, set about conserving these beautiful creatures and founded the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Today this 225km reserve is a sanctuary for animals, including the Arabian oryx, gazelles, the Arabian hare and many other smaller animals. Many birds also enjoy this sanctuary as they migrate through the region.

Photo credit: ShuGa Photography

There are so many more places in Dubai to have memorable animal encounters. We encourage you as a responsible traveller to always do your own research before choosing where to go. Always bear in mind that tourist attractions that are proud of their animal welfare, will definitely communicate this on their websites.