Penguins enjoy life’s little luxuries at Ski Dubai, as visitors get a chance to interact with the friendly birds, despite criticism from PETA and other animal activists.
Ski Dubai houses a total of 20 penguins, 10 Gentoos and 10 Kings. The penguins were born in captivity at San Antonio’s SeaWorld, and were imported into Dubai in 2012, to allow Dubai residents and visitors to meet and interact with the birds at Ski Dubai.
The man-made ski facility offers a variety of activities including skiing, snowboarding, and meeting and swimming with penguin programs.
The penguins are given specific housing units in the indoor snow resort. The penguins are cared for by 13 trainers, including 1 specialist who has been bought from different parts of the world and is responsible for the health and well-being of the birds. Additionally, the penguin housing unit has an accessible swimming pool to imitate their natural habitat in the Antarctic.
Ski Dubai trainer Irene De Wit, says that the penguins are living a luxury life in the snow park. “At Ski Dubai we try to mimic the penguin’s natural habitat in the Antarctic. We do however; feed them the freshest, restaurant-quality fish. In addition to this, we allow them to exercise regularly through daily marches and swimming, as they normally would in their natural environment,” she said.
The snow park has received plenty of criticism by animal activists, who believe that the penguins are used as a mere commodity. Animal activist Reham Abdel-Majid, told bikyamasr.com that Ski Dubai is sending a harmful message, that animals can and should be held 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 they can do whatever we want,” she said.
Though many activists are opposed to the idea of penguins living outside of their natural habitat, De Wit argues that the penguins are living comfortably, just as they would in the wild. “We try our best to make sure that the penguins are comfortable and happy. We have weekly veterinary check-ups and imported food to make sure that the birds are as healthy as they can be. We offer them plenty of playing time and provide adjustable lighting in order to provide the same amount of light, as in their natural environment in the Antarctic,” said De Wit.
Though extreme efforts are made, in order to provide a natural environmental feel for the penguins, the penguin program received harsh criticism from animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who publically announced, “Ski Dubai is only acquiring penguins for profit,” PETA Asia-Pacific senior campaigner Ashley Fruno told The National. “If they really cared about penguins, they would leave them alone,” PETA claimed, on their website.
De Wit believes that the penguins have a huge advantage by living in Ski Dubai as it is both safe and similar to their natural environment, “the penguins here are lucky because they are not subjected to become prey, through this program, we do what we can to raise awareness and conserve their natural habitat,” said De Wit.