SEVERAL new features are to be introduced at one of Bahrain's biggest tourist attractions.
A falcon stadium and pet park within a traditional Bahraini garden are in the pipeline at the Al Areen Wildlife Park, Sakhir.
Work on the BD50,000 project is set to begin shortly after Ramadan and is expected to take at least six months to complete.
The 200 x 250-metre garden will use ancient irrigation techniques and feature old wells and a myriad of Bahraini fruit trees, said Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife vice-president Dr Ismail Al Madani.
"It will look like a desert garden tailored especially for Bahraini plants with all varieties of date and other fruit trees," he told the GDN.
Dr Al Madani said the falcon stadium would be able to accommodate up to 50 people at a time and the plan was to have daily shows of entertainment and educational value.
"We're aiming for one show per day but this depends on the size of visiting groups," he said.
"On days with more organised school trips or tours there will be more shows.
"Through such entertaining shows we can enlighten people on the falcon's habitat, behavioural patterns and its significance in Bahraini tradition."
Personal contact with the birds will be encouraged to raise awareness.
"Holding and petting falcons will not just entertain but increase people's awareness as part of the educational aspect of the show," said Dr Al Madani.
The main goal of the pet park is to enlighten society on how to treat animals with respect and care.
It follows complaints from GDN readers about visitors mistreating animals at the park.
But Al Areen Wildlife Park director Dr Adel Al Awadhi claimed the problem was no longer an issue.
"Everywhere around the world this is a concern, we have done everything possible by increasing security and closely monitoring the animals," he said.
"So far this year there haven't been any reportings and all seems fine."
The pet park will help teach youngsters how to take care of animals, said Dr Al Madani who blamed a lack of education and exposure to animals for the problem.
"In the past, people had more contact with animals such as chicken and goats," he said.
"Nowadays people have unsettling reactions even to these farm animals.
"Through this initiative people can familiarise themselves with the animals, feel positive reactions and learn to treat other living creatures with understanding.
"Goats, sheep and baby gazelles will be part of this park for all ages to enjoy.
"They can learn how to take care of them, proper feeding methods, and by doing so we better inform our children to prevent mistreatment of animals in their future lives."
The park, which opened in 1986, houses 50 animal, 90 bird and 80 desert plant species and attracted 140,436 visitors last year - more than seven times higher than in 2000.
Despite its popularity, it relies on contributions by private organisations, individuals and groups for its upkeep and development.
"Although we mainly rely on private institutions, individuals and companies for contributions it is not the bottom line we're after," said Dr Al Madani.
"The entrance fee of BD1 for adults and 500 fils for children has been the same for more than 30 years so we're definitely not focused on making profit."
Dr Al Madani stressed the importance of sustaining wildlife and the environment for future generations.
"People have nowhere to go in Bahrain but to the mall," he said.
"By initiating such projects I hope to give the Bahraini people something more to enjoy, learn and preserve."