Petting zoo in Dubai

Laura Glanfield, the brains behind Dubai's first petting sanctuary, tells <em>Time Out</em> about nappy-wearing baboons


Tell us about the animal sanctuary.
It’s on a beautiful farm. It’s all green, people can come for the day, they can picnic, they can even camp in the desert behind us. We’d like to organise camping trips where kids can come to the farm in the morning and feed the animals. Kids will love it. It’s like a friendly family farm.

A green farm in Dubai?
Yeah, they sell grass down the road. We keep buying it by the metre. It’s really lush.

What inspired you to set this up?
I used to work for K9 Friends and Feline Friends. But there’s so much cruelty towards other animals – people find tortoises and rabbits roaming around the streets – so we’re filling the gap.

There aren’t many animal shelters around here, are there?
There’s Sharjah wildlife centre, and there’s a place in Abu Dhabi, but they’re about the only two places. There’s nothing hands-on where children can actually get in with the animals and chase a duck around a field or, you know, stroke a goat and cuddle them and wash them. We had a few children here the other day, washing the goats and the horses.

What animals have you got at the farm at the minute?
We’ve got two retired horses, two goats, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs. We’ve also got a parrot that needed a home, and we’ve got a baby baboon on its way.

A baby baboon?
It’s about five or six months old. It was rescued from a family that bought it from a souk, which seemed to be the fad last year. They got it home in the cage as a little baby, I think it was about one or two months old, and they didn’t know what to do with it. A very kind South African family took it off their hands and they’ve been rearing it. It walks around in a nappy and wears reins. So we’ve got that waiting to come in, but we need to build a cage for it, we need funding! We’re desperate for donations so we can get the baby baboon here.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to visit the farm?
It’s hands-on, it’s, ‘Hey, this is a creature, it does have feelings, it does need caring for.’ We’re going to get the message across to parents and children that, most of the time, pets are more of a responsibility than they realise. It’s not something you just buy at the pet shop, look at and hold for a few days.

So when are you open for visitors?
We’re open from 10am until 5pm every day. We’re still in the setting-up stages though, so a lot of things aren’t done yet, purely because we’ve not had the time or the volunteers.

And how much does it cost?
We’re just asking for donations. You decide. There’s a recycled water bottle sitting on an old tree stump, so that’s where you pay!
The Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm is at the end of Dubai Bypass Road on the Ajman/Sharjah border, 25 minutes from Dragon Mart heading out of Dubai or 35 minutes from the airport. Call 050 273 0973 or email

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