Why the Kuwait Zoo is a disaster

Post by Mark

Everyone who’s been to the Kuwait Zoo knows how sad and depressing the place is. I’ve written about it a number of times and it’s just something that has bewildered me for a very long time. Why is the zoo the way it is? I always figured the people who worked at the zoo didn’t care about the animals but after meeting a few of the staff members recently I now know that’s not true. Turns out there are two main reasons why the zoo is a disaster, the first is the zoo visitors and the second is they just don’t have enough money to make it better.

The Visitors
Majority of the people who visit the zoo do not respect the animals nor do they respect any of the rules. On one trip to the zoo during the daytime when it was fairly empty I witnessed three different incidents in a space of 15 minutes that summarizes the problem with the people at the zoo. The first incident took place at the elephant enclosure. We noticed a woman with her young kid had climbed over the fence, through the cactuses all the way to the wall of the elephant enclosure and were taking pictures next to the trunk of the elephant that was sticking out. One of the zoo employees who was with me yelled at the women to get away from the elephant because it was dangerous and the woman just coldly took her time making her way back out over the fence as if she had done nothing wrong. A few meters away on the other corner of the enclosure there was a kid next to his mother with a bag of oranges throwing them at the second elephant. Again the zoo employee had to stop the kid from throwing oranges at the elephant while the mother was pretending she wasn’t noticing any of this.

The third incident occurred just a short distance away at the baboon enclosure. As we arrived we noticed a kid was on top of the fence sticking french fries into the baboon cage trying to feed them. His mother and his sister were standing next to him watching and then the baboon stuck his hand out of the cage and the little boy tried to kick it hard but ended up missing and hitting the cage. The zoo employee I was with yelled at the boy to get down and then pulled the kid down but the kid kept climbing back up wanting to feed the baboons. The employee was telling the kid how dangerous it was since the baboons can bite and scratch people when his mother started shouting at her. She told the employee that no one cares about her kids more than her and if this was dangerous she wouldn’t be letting her kids feed the baboons. I was just standing there going WTF?

Visitors are one of the biggest issues of the zoo. I’ve already posted about how some kids try to kill the animals with slingshots and how the trash people throw into the cages end up killing the animals as well. A lot of kids are uneducated and abusive throwing whatever they can at the animals or in the case above trying to kick them. This is why the zoo tries to protect the animals using chicken wire (a fence with very small openings) around the cages, cactus plants, higher fences and security guards. But even those defenses fail all the time, people still manage to shove food into the cages, they pull down the chicken wire fence and put it on top of the cactuses so they can walk on them towards the cages. Even security guards get ignored and the guards are too afraid to confront the visitors anyway.

No Budget
Now this second issue is the bigger of the two. The zoo has limited financial resources. Although Kuwait is a rich country, the zoo and animals aren’t really a priority. Right now there are two major enclosures for example that need to be changed or fixed but the zoo staff haven’t been able to secure the budget for them.

The first problem is the elephant enclosure. Right now there are two elephants and the enclosure is pretty tiny. The larger of the two elephants has started destroying the walls of the enclosure because of frustration. The zoo submitted a proposal to double the size of the enclosure since there is an empty plot right next to the elephant enclosure but the proposal was rejected. Instead a construction company was brought in to install large metal beams around the elephant enclosure as a solution (pictured above).

The second problem that is in dire need of attention is the chimpanzee cage (pictured above). There are four chimps in one of the most depressing cages I’ve ever seen. They have no entertainment whatsoever inside, it’s just a rectangular dark cage with concrete floors and thats it. But, there’s a great spot in the zoo which the staff want to convert to a chimp enclosure. It’s a large space (see below) that can be planted with trees and greenery and chimps can roam free in it. The plan was proposed but rejected due to budgetary reasons. So now the space is gonna be turned into a reptile enclosure filled with a few crocs and turtles which is going to be a complete waste of space.

So although the staff do want to improve the zoo they just don’t have any money do so. It’s very depressing. Even when it comes to fixing enclosures or purchasing new medical equipment it’s all handled in the same low priority “put a bandaid on it” way.

The Solution
The visitors problem is very difficult to fix. One way would be to increase the prices of the tickets (currently it’s 500fils) in hopes that would stop or lessen the amount of visitors that come to the zoo. Educating the parents and the children is too large a task for the zoo to handle and signs and leaflets really have no effect. The most realistic solution to the people problem is to continue and try to protect the animals (I suggested replacing cactus plants with barbed wire) and hiring Kuwaiti security to replace the current expats.

The solution with the budget should be simpler… just increase the budget, but that’s not happening. A more realistic option we discussed is sponsorship by private companies. Companies could sponsor an animal enclosure and the money would be used to build it or improve it. It’s something that’s done in other zoos around the world and in this situation it would be a great way to solve a lot of the problems.

By the way you’re a company and are interested in doing this, email me for more details [Here]

It’s really sad that the zoo doesn’t have any money to improve the situation for the animals. It’s not only the elephants and the chimps that are in trouble but those two are the priorities right now. The baboon cage for example has around 70 baboons inside and is over crowded. The tiger needs more space, the hippos need a new water filter for their pool and one of the giraffes is limping but they don’t have a portable xray machine to check and see why. They even have one animal enclosure nicknamed Guantanamo because it’s that bad.

The problems with the zoo are major and hopefully I was able to bring it some exposure.

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128 comments, add your own...

  1. sarah says:

    It’s really sad and it makes me really angry the way no one respects any of the rules in Kuwait it’s so depressing just thinking about it, why are we so different than everyone else?! does no one teach their kids manners any more
    Rules are rules they’re put there for a reason, i dont even know why we have rules if no one bothers following them

    theres my rant for the day had to get it out of my system :)

    • Rant is not enough. I would love to volunteer just for those kids with parents that have no manners (cause its their parents and not them).

      I have no issue slapping a kid given his parents aren’t looking :p (remember the scene in The Dictator movie when he kicked the kid on his stomach so hard? that is how i feel :P

      • sarah says:

        i don’t think you’d get away with hitting the kids but a better idea would be to have a mandatory class in schools to teach kids how to act like proper human beings, but then again the parents are ignorant i dont know what we can do about them
        maybe the kids can teach their parents proper manners

        • Ron says:

          Excellent idea – and bring zoo workers, zoo vet, or volunteer docents to educate the kis (even telling them it is okay to scorn the bad kids behavior at the zoo)

          • sarah says:

            yeah definitely that’s a great idea, or maybe even have a small show at the zoo where zoo workers can show kids what they can and can’t do to the animals, that way even the parents will be forced to tell their kids off if they misbehave (hopefully)

            we have a long way to go :(

            • Mohammad Alansari says:

              Great idea, it’s a shame and if this is how we treat animals then it reflects how we treat others in the streets!

    • ashka says:

      well it has to start with the governement imposing fines, and enforcing the rules and laws for people to respect their society. with time they’ll learn to naturally follow them and then like them. thats never going to happen in kuwait which is so damn sad

  2. Last time I went to the Zoo, it was 14 years ago.. It was something good, haven’t seen it since.

  3. Andy says:

    If they so desperately want to get close to the animals and break the rules, open up the tiger cage and let ’em do it!!

    Some people just don’t understand what safety is all about. Even when looking after their own kids!!

    Beggars belief!!

  4. ash says:

    Close it down, its so sad!

  5. lulz says:

    Kuwait Zoo: Nazi concentration camp of the animal kingdom.

  6. Asham says:

    This is really sick. Thanks for bringing this up Mark. I’d rather raise some money to keep these animals safe than to worry about raising the ticket prices.

  7. dlc says:

    Mark.. please send me details about Company sponsoring an enclosure. Thank u

  8. Ali says:

    Good on you, Mark, for raising awareness. Bless your li’l soul.

  9. Matt says:

    Hi Mark,
    Great article. Out of interest though, you talk about the budget. Where does the zoo get its money from? Which ministry or department is it?

  10. Joe says:

    It’s the visitors that belongs in a zoo! Having said that, it is not much better down on gulf street ona Thursday or Friday afternoon/night.

  11. MightyOz says:

    It is better to close the zoo, not to continue in such a shabby state of affairs. But really the whole country is like this, everything is run down and they just keep saying their a wealthy nation. They are not wealthy they are quite a poor nation. Wealth is not always reflected in the amount of your bank account.

  12. Soso says:

    I and my son were there last Friday and I agree the lack of discipline of some of the visitor coming in. There was signed of “do not feed the animals” but strongly ignored by others. The problem here is not only by the visitors who simply breaking a simples rules, for me it is the administration of the Zoo to implement and exercise these rules and also to make it more tough to all violators in the sense that penalties should be applied like if they caught you feeding the animals you will be charge through monetary or civic actions.

    • Dessert Girl says:

      You know the idea of legal action might actually work, or maybe the visitors should be provided with a disclaimer before entering the zoo that would allow the staff to ban them or “escort” them out of the zoo in case they break any of the rules. That would be satisfying to watch! >=)
      Anyway, hope more parents like you who actually care about the animals would be the main visitors of the zoo.

  13. Ahmad says:

    there’s a new zoo proposal , a large one( 2 million square meters)infact

  14. Samer says:

    I hate to be that guy but… cactus’s plural is cacti.

    sorrygoodarticlebye! *runs*

  15. Gaz Jr. says:

    The solution for problem 1, is to put the visitors inside the cages (enclosures); and let the animals teach them a lesson how it feels harassing them.

  16. 3azeez says:

    “Although Kuwait is a rich country, the zoo and animals aren’t really a priority.”

    Of course. The question is… whose the priority?! LOL

  17. 3azeez says:

    Mark, contact the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences. They are the people who sponsor most if not all science related activities in Kuwait. They are also the people behind Kuwait’s aquarium.

    Just approach them in appropriate manner and I’m confident the Zoo will get all the financial support it needs. And when it does, don’t forget to credit me :)

  18. 50 says:

    is there a way that people can donate to the zoo?

  19. Rehab says:

    You want to increase fee to lessen the visitors is just dumb as increasing traffic fines to reduce accidents ! And getting Kuwaiti security will only bring Diwaniyas near each cage. We all know this…

    If Kuwait can bring experts for everything from other part of the world, then why not bring those experts from Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa specifically for Zoo ?

    • Rehab says:

      Make authorities aware of the responsibility, simply increasing fund will not improve condition unless the authorities want it…

    • hello says:

      plus one

    • Ahmed says:

      That is the main point ! Authorities does not care. Expert can give advise how to maintain a zoo, ofcourse it will followed by increasing the money to bring those experts…

    • Macky says:

      to bring experts from the above mentioned countries sounds fine but!!!! they will face similar situations like the exploitations happening to contract companies!! eg like the street cleaners and private nurses.

  20. Matt says:

    Very well written piece. Concise and clear. Thanks.

  21. G says:

    Thanks Mark, Can you keep us updated on this please :)

  22. Dessert Girl says:

    It’s frustrating to deal with or witness people who act like that. And it’s obvious that it all starts with the mother, so a long term solution would be increasing “good-mothering awareness”.
    Though for a direct solution, I liked the idea about installing barbed wire, maybe making it electric too! Just a little zap.

  23. vinny says:

    Makes me wonder which side of the fence the animals are on.

  24. Naveen Haridas says:

    frankly no animal deserves to be in zoos anywhere in the world.

    how would you feel being jailed for nothing?????

    • kathink says:

      Zoos are also being used for breeding purposes to make sure certain animals don’t get extinct. But no such luck here in Q8. Thats why I feel they should just close this zoo and try and get the animals to other parts of the world where they will be cared for and looked after properly.

      • ~LE~ says:

        I agree. If we can’t (or won’t) run it right then we should just X it.

        I’m really sick of Kuwait’s 1/2 done jobs… it seems that we never complete a job right.

        I swear the only two things I’m proud of in Kuwait are the Kuwait Towers and The Liberation Tower, and if those two towers were build today it would have costed double the its original construction price and would have been 1/2 the quality.

  25. Khaled says:

    If I was in charge of the zoo I would make an agreement paper with the vistor’s that they should sign it. This agreement paper says that if they touch the animals or feed them or clim on the fence would have to pay a fee or they would be kicked out of the zoo! And the zoo should go on interviews and say we need sponsers to make the zoo a better!

    • Longfire says:

      This would be a viable solution, have agreement papers with the sale of every ticket that clearly shows the actions and the fees for them. Then just have 1 Kuwaiti guard/security manager that would just come out to collect the fee’s when ever an issue is reported by a guard. The issue with the mother shouting at the guard is disgusting, if her son got bitten or scratched it would have been better since the guard could have told her he should have followed the rules and walked away lol.

    • Brandon says:

      This would probably work.

      • strumming says:

        It won’t work until you have a force who’re steel enough to slap their and their friends’ bitch asses to prison.

  26. Rick says:

    “and the guards are too afraid to confront the visitors anyway”

    Theres your problem

  27. sooli says:

    can we volunteer at the zoo? im kuwaiti and would love to volunteer as a guard at the zoo and would be happy to discipline any kid or parent trying to break the rules. please give us info if this is possible. maybe k’s path can do something about this issue

  28. Nixon says:

    Fully agree with you mark, but i dont think that its a waste of space to do a reptile enclosure instead of a chimpanzee cage, they should upgrade/modify the cage.

    But I wonder how the animals survive the summer heat and does anyone have a list of all the animals?

  29. AndyQ8 says:

    As Rick says, the critical point here is that the security guards have no authority.

    I watched a small, ( maybe 10-12 years old,) throw his chocolate at a guard who asked him to move behind the safety fence and not feed the animals chocolate. The mother then shouted at the guard and carried on as before.

    I then watched as the guard ‘conveniently’ looked the other way and ignored what was happening.Sad.

    • Tim says:

      And why does that happen? Because the “guard” is an expat from an extreemly poor country. Is he/she gonna REALLY chastise a Kuwaiti? Not likely. In the event he does and the Kuwaiti mother accused him of assault or some other nonsense, who will win in court? The guy is getting paid shit wages and isn’t going to do anything relly necessary to solve this problem and face a possible loss of a job or worse.

      Kind of like how the police here won’t do anything to solve the shitty driving in Kuwait. Kuwaitis don’t seem to have any respect for an authority figure and will get behind a police car and flash them to get out of their way. What a crock!

  30. Rayboy says:

    I have some notes, if it would help..

    1. Barb wire the fences, which would prevent people climbing them over. it should be done in a way, which doesnt affect the animals.

    2. increase the pricing to atleast 2 KD per head. Even Scientific centre charges kd 3 for the aquariums.

    3. Have a website or online presence that will increase the probabilty of quality visitors.

    4. Have a lottery system or competitions which will generate income.

  31. ahmed says:

    You can’t allow the torture of animals to appease a sick public.This zoo should be closed down until the government decides to run it appropriately.
    P.S. They are building a new zoo in Dubai. It is called formative government.

  32. petapleasers says:

    Hello PETA are you out there????? You can get a visit visa at the airport. hint hint

  33. Neo says:

    Mark , I feel that they should

    a)Get the team of experts who worked with the best zoos in the world , to come here and turn this zoo around… Am sure it would make a huge difference.

    b)Revise the rates, charge same or higher than the Scientific Center,
    As an example.
    On Week Days : KD 4 Children & KD 6 Adults
    On Weekends : KD 6 Children & KD 8 Adults

    Even during the Public Holidays, they should keep the admission fees.

    c)Get rid of the hawkers selling peanuts, chips, etc. at the entrance. This would definitely discourage feeding the animals to some extent.

    d)Restrict all sorts of Food Availability & Consumption inside the Zoo, to the Food Court Area.

    Won’t work out overnight but surely in the long run.

  34. Coolsprint says:

    Shut down the bloodie zoo & send the animals back to their forests, no one is going to die without seeing animals. If they’re still interested they can go to Avenues on weekends, it’s not less than a zoo.

  35. Maz says:

    Solution 1. Any person who breaks the rules by feeding animals/climbing into fences is automatically kicked out, no refunds.

    Solution 2. Set up a donation box for individuals who care

    Solution 3. Have a few Kuwaiti security personnel around the area.

    Solution 4. Have a campaign for irresponsible parents on the dangers of being around certain animals and disturbing their territory.

    Solution 5 (unlikely). With the approval by the National Assembly, we should have strict laws protecting animal rights; violators have to pay a fine or if its something big like poaching etc. they would get jail time or community service.

    Maybe there’s a better way to raise awareness…

  36. Anon says:

    Rules work if there are consequences to breaking them. This is the second or third generation of kids who have grown up thinking that rules don’t apply to them because wasta will get them out of trouble.

    If the parents don’t understand why rules are important, how can you expect them to pass on that knowledge to their kids? The zoo is just a small symptom of a larger societal problem. Extend this to the roads, the malls and society in general and you get a sense of why people are not able to function properly.

    Expats understand that this is not something they have the time or power to change so they learn to live in their own bubble as long as the money is better than home. That bubble hasn’t burst yet, but once it does, and they realize they can’t ignore what’s going on around then or keep it from affecting their children, it will truly be time to GTFO!

  37. Joe says:

    Singapore Zoo and Night Safari are perfect role models for a zoo if there necessarily needs to be one!!! http://www.zoo.com.sg & http://www.nightsafari.com.sg

  38. Ahmad says:

    Meanwhile the gov. donates money for foreign zoo’s ….

  39. reffr says:

    The problem is that the zoo is run by the same government organization the controls the fisheries and agriculture . The Zoo should be under the mandate of KFAS ( Kuwait Foundation for the advancement of the which is Loaded with funds and has the expertise to do a world class Job .

  40. The zoo is run by the Public Authority for Agriculture and Fish Resources (PAAFR). Donations of any kind would be giving money to a government ministry that wastes millions every year. The Kuwait zoo has some good people working there. The first thing that needs to happen is that their upper management needs to be changed and/or secured for a long term. I do not know their current management, but we were working with one of their previous groups. They were all abruptly replaced. An appropriately educated, consistent, and committed management could rebuild the zoo one policy at a time. I don’t see that happening as long as the zoo remains a government institution. The Scientific Center works so well because it is a non-profit; the zoo should be the same. Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, they could seek accreditation with AZA (http://www.aza.org/). Doing so would require significant changes and could act as a catalyst for change.

    Recent history has seen Kuwait zoo working with the Pyongyang zoo (http://www.q8nri.com/home/2009/11/21/its-no-party-for-the-animals-in-kuwait-zoo/), a relationship that I would personally be ashamed of.

    Mark is certainly right about the funding. The problem of human behavior can, in the short term, only be solved by investing in high-quality barriers. For quality of life, the animals need a captive animal enrichment program, much like the one we have at K’S PATH. We are committed to helping the zoo. In the past few years we have taken three baboons, a goat, and a hedgehog from them, and we would be happy to help further in any way we can.

  41. visakar says:

    Corporate companies can sponsor the maintenance of the individual cage. They get publicity and inturn they maintain or provide the needed services.

  42. Ron says:

    Thanks for important post. The elephant partic has neurotic behaviour and visitor behaviour re-inforces it. A caring newspaper reporter could help with researching a front page story & reporting what the correct authorities would provide as comments/solutions.

    Tho I work in Wafra, glad to help / volunteer as possible.

  43. mel says:

    Kuwait has bad record with human rights, now perhaps Animal activist will look into this too.

  44. Thinka says:

    What can I say.. it makes me sooooo sad and angry.
    Its not only the zoo. The kuwaities have no pride in their country. Their houses: yes very much but anything outside their gate is NOT THEIR problem. :-(
    Someone said replace the expat guards with kuwaities… Hahah have u seen the police here???? How often do they stop locals compaired to expats.
    I agree with someone else: close the zoo, give up. Give the animals to other zoos inthe hope they can rescue them. Trying to make this zoo better is bringing water to the sea (or here sand to the desert)
    One solution to stop kids climbing over fences to get near the cages:
    ELECTRICAL WIRE !!!! With high voltages!!! That will stop them!!!!

  45. Asham says:

    Back home (AUS) I always thought all those pet loving people were overly reacting by spending big bucks on their beloved pets, but now after reading the blog post and viewing some images made me real sick and forced to change my opinion.

    Doesn’t it make you think, who the Actual Animals are ? Those who are locked behind bars and tortured by some people for fun or those who apparently look humans but behave like reckless animals.

  46. Akbar says:

    While they get the funds, how about an awareness campaign and get companies and schools, colleges or maybe boy and girlscouts out and educate the visitors on weekends? Like the beach cleanup drives and kspath campaigns?

  47. TweeZ says:

    in general, Arab/islamic countries don’t care much about animal rights.

  48. Security Adviser says:

    Forget animal rights they dont much care about Human Rights either !!!!

  49. Randy says:

    I’ve been told I’m too negative re: Kuwait so I’ll say nothing on the issue since I have nothing nice to say ✌

  50. heeeeelllllllppppp says:

    Zoo in Mumbai, India is in the same (if not worse) then this one, I guess the zoo’s are the most neglected places, One thing is , they do not generate a lot of profits ( very expensive to keep these animals) and the animals cannot do anything for them selves.

  51. Alia says:

    Thank you thank you for this post. i wish the Kuwait zoo was either taken care of properly or just shut down. I am completely against all zoos as a matter of principle for some of the horrible reasons and examples you posted and many, many more. They are unethical, immoral, horrible prisons and jails for God’s beautiful wild creatures who should be in their natural habitats doing what wild creatures must do. I am more inclined to be supportive of wildlife parks, which at the very least, allow the animals to be as free as possible in the circumstances and have a more natural life.
    Glad you brought some attention to this.

  52. Ankit says:

    Well done Mark. I really hope Kuwaiti’s and members of the government read this article and react positively.

    Kuwait is a rich country and has one zoo. It should honestly be able to provide enough funds, security and resources to have a zoo that we can all be proud off and especially ensures that animal rights are observed and animals are kept in a humane and safe manner.

    Mark – consider sending your article to Arab Times etc as well as a translated version to the Arabic newspapers such as Watan to ensure it gets maximum exposure that hopefully leads to the situation improving.

  53. Marcel says:

    Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.

    Evan Esar

  54. aaa says:

    Have you been to the animal parts of the scientific center? How come people are so much better behaved there?

    They should just expand the scientific center

  55. Ashraf says:

    Hire Zoo Guides.. someone who is always with the troop educating people on the animals.

    make hurting the animals a crime.

    problem solved.

  56. egyptian mohammed says:

    coz kuwait state donot have enough money to renew it

  57. strumming says:

    Zoos should be banned in all third world countries until sense, respect, humility, decency where it really counts and evolution to some degree of nobility and dignity tip to a large majority. Scares me to think when that might happen. Can’t comment on how a couple of the first world/developed countries from the east treat animals in their zoos considering how they go after whales, dolphins and dogs, because I don’t know.

  58. Roopesh says:

    In one of the zoos in India ( everywhere the situation is slmost the same ) there is one cage reserved for human beings .. You make fun or abuse animals they might put you in this cage for some period of time ? ….

  59. Laura says:

    I am a K’s Path volunteer from the U.S. and I can vouch for how well animals are handled there. They are strongly supported by donations from the Kuwait community, both individual and company sponsored. There are people here that do help. I can also vouch for the ignorance of a huge number of people in this country regarding animals, both domestic and exotic. K’s Path itself is committed to educating the community on animals and I really feel this is the best option for Kuwait. Many people here have had little to no experience with humane animal treatment and therefore largely cannot be fully blamed for their actions. If all you’d ever known was abuse of animals you would not behave any differently. Humanity is not naturally humane. History shows this. We commit genocide on our own species. Those of us that do have this knowledge need to step up and try to impart our knowledge to others. If you can educate even one person, imagine what a difference could be made.

  60. Alcibiades Humour says:

    I agree with what Laura says except for this- that they are strongly supported by donations from the community, at large, both individuals and corporates. I highly suspect that simply just isn’t the case in relation to all the expenditures that go into providing a community service like this.

    With the very few ethical ones, corporates in this country seem to shy away because their decision makers are afraid of not getting enough PR mileage that will convert to expanding bottom lines by supporting a cause as worthy as this.

    Individual donations come from but a handful of magnanimous people. The large weight of this great work is financially shouldered by only a very few.

  61. Noemie says:

    Give these poor chimps a new home with trees, grass, branches, ropes, toys !!!!! It’s urgent.

  62. ace says:

    One’s i was born in Kuwait, i Lived. Neer. The zoo so i went their. So many times, it was nice back then (before the iraq invatiaon )
    But i use to see alot things wrong from visitors. I was young kid,
    And i can’t believe. Things. Still the same. Mantality from people. They need to learn haw to deal with animals in good way.i wish i could. Help,,,,!

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