50s to 90s Animals & Wildlife

The First Zoo in the Gulf was in Kuwait

A few years ago I came across the photo above taken by George Rodger in 1952 of the first elephant in Kuwait. Initially, I thought the elephant was for our current zoo, but that couldn’t have been possible since the zoo opened much later, in 1968. Turns out there was another zoo in Kuwait before that called “Salwa Garden”.

Salwa Garden was the first zoo in Kuwait and the first modern zoo in the Arabian Gulf. It was established in Rumaithiya by Sheikh Jaber Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 1954 back when the area lacked basic infrastructure like roads or electricity.

Sheikh Jaber traveled to India and Africa in search of animals, and whenever he got the animals he also brought with them their minders to help ensure that the animals received proper care. He also strived to establish near-normal conditions for the animals. For the Himalayan bear for example, he purchased ice slabs for it from the Al-Ghanim ice factory until it adapted to Kuwait’s climatic conditions. He also made sure that all the animals were well fed and medically cared for.

The garden was called “Salwa” because it was an Arabic term for recreation and entertainment. Admission was free because Sheikh Jaber wanted to share his love for nature with others and it the garden ended up attracting both locals and foreigners.

A decade after establishing the garden, Sheikh Jaber decided to close it due to rapid urbanization and the establishment of the Kuwait Zoo in Al-Omariyah which he ended up donating most of his animals to.

It’s a really interesting story and if you want to read more about it, there is a great paper written by Rua Alshaheen, Yousef Alharoun and Mohammed Alajmi called “A case study of Kuwait’s Salwa Garden” which has a lot of info and where I got most of mine from.

There is also a book called “Salwa Garden” that was published by Mona Al-Sabah which contains information as well as a lot more photos of the garden.

6 replies on “The First Zoo in the Gulf was in Kuwait”

There were so many things Kuwait was pioneer of… Entertainment City being one of them which was first of its kind in Middle East…. Kuwait from 70’s till invasion was the most progressive GCC country in the world… Sad to see we are behind in even basic infrastructure now like Roads, which haven’t been repaired since decades in some streets now lol !

Yippee! A zoo in Salwa sounds so rad. Maybe AlShaya should rather could as part of its CSR initiative develop the Omariya zoo into something bigger, better and kinder to the animals. I will eat a Zoo biscuit to that.

The Kuwait zoo has been closed since corona, does anyone know when will it open?
It is so sad to see all of the iconic places die slowly, entertainment city, showbiz, shaab park, kuwait zoo…..all gone, and no one cares on developing these.
Entertainment opportunities for kids have been replaced by tiny indoor play areas which costs a fortune to let your kids play in them for an hour.

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