A day trip to Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife | Wildlife Refuge in Jordan
Tevan and I had plans to visit Jerash this coming weekend. Since Jerash is located an hour away from Amman, I decided to look up other things to do while we are there. As I was browsing, Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife popped up on my search result and that caught my attention. From some preliminary reading, I discovered that it was a wildlife refuge that spans across 140 hectares. Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife through a partnership between the Princess Alia Foundation and Four Paws was set up to provide relief for wildlife that have been rescued from war torn countries, illegal wildlife trades, poor living conditions in zoos, or private individuals.
This piqued our interest so we decided to visit the sanctuary. We woke up bright and early and took a drive to Jerash. We spotted several Bedouin settlements and kids from the settlement roaming and playing on the streets along the way. Local fruit vendors selling a variety of produce are lined along both sides of the road.
We arrived at the sanctuary at 10 am and purchased the tickets from the counter. We were then greeted by our tour guide, Khalil. Visits are usually done in small groups - not exceeding 20 pax at a given time. Visitors are also advised to remain calm and quiet throughout the visit to avoid startling the animals.
After a short briefing at the entrance, we hopped on a bus which took us to the enclosures. It was a very short ride with calming views of the surrounding greenery. The sanctuary holds seven types of animals i.e. tigers, lions, hyenas, monkeys, bears, wolfs, and raccoons. Each enclosure is species-specific and is equipped with the necessary conditions that best suit their natural needs.
We were informed that there are two units within this project, one is the sanctuary and the other one is the New Hope Centre which is situated in Amman. The latter serves as the main veterinary clinic and rehabilitation Centre for the rescued wildlife. Al Ma'wa becomes the permanent home to those animals that cannot be sent back to their country of origin or released into the wild.
Cassie is a female spotted hyena, who was rescued along with 12 other animals by Four Paws from Aleppo, Syria in 2017. She is estimated to be 15-17 years old. She was brought to the Sanctuary in June 2020 after undergoing rehabilitation at the New Hope Centre. Spotted hyenas are the biggest of the hyena family and the females are normally heavier than the male. We spotted Cassie when she was on her morning stroll.
This is Dobbie, a striped hyena that was confiscated from a local zoo and brought to the Sanctuary in June 2020. Dobbie is now 14 years old and has adjusted well to the enclosure. This species is categorized as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as they are predominantly endangered due to loss of habitat or human hunting activities. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of Dobbie as he is nocturnal and mostly appears only at night.
This is a case of mistaken identity - This guy was mistaken for a wolf as he closely resembles one but further testing proved that he was 99 percent dog. He will be released soon.
Speaking about wolves, at present, there are a total of 9 wolves living in the Sanctuary and they are kept in two separate packs. Wolves are very cautious creatures so they took a long time to adapt to their new surrounding. These wolves cannot be released into the wild because their lack of natural instinct would place them in immense danger. However, these days, both packs of wolves have displayed friendly behavior and are co-existing peacefully.
Max was fast asleep and completely oblivious to whatever that was happening around him. In any case, it is best not to wake a sleeping lion.
Max and Muna are a pair of siblings that were rescued from a Gaza Refugee Camp by Four Paws, They were brought to the Sanctuary in the fall of 2016 and now lead a happy life here.. The bond shared between the siblings is truly moving.
It can be really exciting to see these fascinating creatures up close but it breaks your heart when you realize why they are here in the first place. I believe that all wildlife should be left in the wild, in their natural habitat without human intervention.
Baloo was a former dancing bear who lived through years of torture in the hands of his ruthless owner. Baloo cannot be released into the wild because all of his teeth were extracted which puts him in a vulnerable position. Baloo was rescued by Four Paws in 2021 and received intensive medical care before he arrived at the Sanctuary.
Some of the animals in the sanctuary have been through hell and back and are now on the road to recovery. Almost all of the animals here at the Sanctuary have a depressing backstory. Al'Mawa provides them a chance to heal and lead a cruel free life. The animals in the Sanctuary are sterilized which illustrates the genuine intention of this initiative which is to rescue and rehabilitate these animals.
At Al Ma'wa there is a chance for successfully rehabilitated animals to be relocated. Simba and Saeed, two lions rescued from war zoos in Mosul and Aleppo were relocated to their forever home in LIONSROCK, a Four Paw Sanctuary in South Africa where a new and better life begins for them. You can click here if you wish to read more about Simba and Saeed.
In recent years, the Middle East has become the hub for wildlife trafficking and because of Jordan's geo-political location, it has become a major gateway for wildlife smuggling. Amidst all of this cruelty and abuse, Al Ma'wa is doing an outstanding job in rescuing, rehabilitating, and creating a safe haven for rescued wildlife. It is indeed uplifting that these animals have found their happy ending in Al'Mawa for Nature and wildlife.
Earlier this year, 17 vervet monkeys were brought to Al' Mawa. They were confiscated from illegal trade. They appear to have adapted well to their new home.
These monkeys liven up the place with their silly antics. They entertain themselves by playing with one another.
The tour came to a close at the highest point where they have an observation deck that overlooks the surrounding mountains, forest and a sleuth of bears roaming below us. The view is simply breathtaking. It was quite the experience.
If you wish to know more about this Sanctuary, you can visit their website or Instagram page. The tickets are priced at 10 Jod for foreigner adults, 7 Jod for locals and residents and 2 Jod for children up to the age of 12 and students. The sanctuary is open everyday except on Mondays. They open at 10 am and the closing hours vary so it is best to contact them at +962795048646 between 10 am and 2 pm daily prior to your visit to book your tour. The guided tour will last approximately 1.5 hours where you will be introduced to all animals and learn a little about their background.
All in all it was a very fulfilling experience as the Sanctuary is different from zoos in the sense that the enclosures imitate the animals surrounding as closely as possible to keep the animals' instinct alive. The zookeepers and staff are very passionate about the animals and are dedicated to providing the animals with the best care and the international guidelines of wildlife are carefully observed.
The Sanctuary looks exceptionally stunning when it snows, so we plan to return then. The entrance fee helps the establishment generate its own income which goes towards the welfare of the animals. They also accept donations so if you wish to donate you can do so here.
Let me wrap up this post with a quote that struck me from the book titled Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari:
Ants and bees can also work together in huge numbers, but they do so in a very rigid manner and only with close relatives. Wolves and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than ants, but they can do so only with small numbers of other individuals that they know intimately. Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.”
— Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens
Next stop was the Ancient City of Jerash which is located ten minutes away from Al Ma'wa. More about that in the next post!
Till then, Toodles.