Visit Milwaukee with our eco travel guide

November 1, 2021 by  
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A flotilla of around 20 kayaks slowly paddles along, a comical number considering we’re all trying to listen to a history talk about the buildings lining the Milwaukee River. “Steve, we can’t hear you!” we yell at Steve Schaffer, assistant archivist of Milwaukee County Historical Society as his kayak drifts backwards behind a moored boat. For the voyage, the Milwaukee Kayak Company has issued us each a can of beer, a bag of cheese curds and a laminated piece of paper showing historic photos of Milwaukee buildings. Schaffer is explaining Milwaukee through a megaphone I suspect came from a dollar store. Some would say it’s a miracle we’re paddling on this river, once a totally industrial waterway. The Milwaukee River connects here with the Menomonee and Kinnickinnic, or KK, as people call it for short. By the early 1900s, Milwaukee had the nickname “Machine Shop of the World.” It cranked out steam engines, electrical equipment, mining shovels, automobile frames, agricultural machinery, bricks and beer to build and fuel a nation. Then it shipped those goods down its rivers and across the Great Lakes — water quality being collateral damage. A few of the things you might find in the river back then were animal hides, gross castoffs from meatpackers, miscellaneous toxic chemicals and municipal sewage. You would not find kayakers or, God forbid, swimmers. Related: Wisconsin’s hidden eco-wellness hotspot “The idea of a river being used for recreation was just completely alien to anybody in the city until the 1960s,” said Schaffer. “They began to think how can we engage people with what is basically a dreary and dead industrial artery? That’s when things began to change.” A half century later, on a beautiful blue sky day in early October, Milwaukee is ready for paddlers. But swimmers? Judging from the smell in some places, the too-frequent belly-up fish sightings and the scum of trash on top, I’m going to wait on that. But you’ve got to give Milwaukee credit for coming this far. The city has invested millions in cleaning up both the toxic sediment that you can’t see and the trash that you can. The 50-foot vessel Lynyrd Skymmr plies Milwaukee’s waterways several times a week, collecting floating debris. Lake Michigan recreation While the river is still cleaning up and catching on with residents and tourists, Lake Michigan is a big recreational draw. The weekend I was in town, 2,680 people took in early morning views while running the Lakefront Marathon. A series of beaches and parks are scattered along the long shoreline, providing chances to rent a bike, paddleboard, kayak or canoe. You can also play golf or tennis, lawn bowl, take a sailing lesson, visit a lighthouse or eat Milwaukee’s famous frozen custard. If you’re in Milwaukee during June or July, you might catch Summerfest, the world’s biggest music festival with grounds overlooking the lake. Black Cat Alley Vibrantly colored street art packs Milwaukee’s favorite pedestrian thoroughfare. Black Cat Alley, a private alley on the East Side, boasts more than 20 murals by two dozen artists ranging from Milwaukee locals to a Berliner. It’s open 24/7 and is a popular backdrop for selfies, family portraits and wedding shoots. During the two days I visited, I saw artist Mi Salgado up on a ladder painting honeycomb on her mural one day and adding darling fuzzy bees the next. Beyond the usual yoga At one end of Black Cat Alley, about thirty cats lounge, frolic and gaze out a storefront window at passers-by. If you read their lips, they might just be saying meow, or maybe they’re inviting you in to have a cup of coffee, take a yoga class or even adopt one of them. The Sip & Purr Cat Café welcomes visitors to get to know their friendly, adoptable cats. Brittany Curran , who goes by B, started leading the weekly Sip & Purr yoga classes last year. Teaching amongst cats is a dream come true. “ Yoga is a great way for folks to connect with their bodies, minds, spirits and breath,” said B, who has two cats of her own, Cici and Guapo. “When there are cats involved, there is also a layer of comedy.  These cats never fail to do the unexpected, and we laugh a lot in cat yoga. I think some deep healing comes into play as well, because cat purrs are known to lower stress hormones in people and even heal bones! They are magical little creatures.” If having cats pounce and leap over your forward bends is too lively, try doing yoga in a cemetery . Beautiful and historic Forest Home Cemetery offers yoga classes during the summer. They even throw in a mini tour. This cemetery is the final resting place of many of Milwaukee’s beer barons, and is also a certified arboretum. If you’re not a yogi, consider visiting Forest Home for a guided tree walk or history tour. Alice’s Garden Back in 1948, Milwaukee planners decided to build a freeway along a route once used by the Underground Railroad. Neighborhoods on the city’s north side were torn down to make space, and people displaced. Then the project was cancelled. But in 1972, out of the ruins of these wrecked neighborhoods, community members planted a garden . And it’s still thriving. On my visit to Alice’s Garden Urban Farm — named for former executive director of Milwaukee Extension Alice Meade-Taylor, who was a big community gardening advocate — Eugene Bivens showed us his garden patch. Surrounded by giant collard greens, cosmos and other plants both edible and decorative, he told my group about the 90 or so people from Cameroon, Scotland, Jamaica, the Middle East and other places who now garden here. Bivens said he inherited his green thumb from his mother, who grew up in Haiti. Neighborhood kids play basketball in the garden’s court, and sometimes a youngster helps Bivens garden in exchange for fresh vegetables . “I think gardening should be taught in every school,” Bivens told us. Public events at the garden include farmers’ markets and labyrinth walks. Getting around During pleasant October weather, I found Milwaukee easily walkable. But if you want to get places faster, you can take the bus, streetcar or ride a bike . For short hops, try Milwaukee’s nonprofit bikeshare system, Bublr Bikes. The sturdy blue bikes have three speeds and are equipped with baskets that carry up to thirty pounds and lights for night riding. To rent by the day or week, stop by Milwaukee by Bike . If you prefer a guided tour, this bike shop also offers a two-hour city skyline bike tour that leads you to local highlights like the lakefront and the Bronze Fonz statue (“Happy Days” was filmed here), or a tour of Milwaukee’s historic breweries. Vegan food I was happily surprised by how easy it was to find vegan food in Milwaukee. All-vegan On the Bus , located in the bustling Milwaukee Public Market , is a must for hearty lunchtime sandwiches and dairy-free ice cream. Beerline is a bright vegetarian café with a nice big patio that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its vegan crepes are especially good. If you want the German beer hall experience, Lakefront Brewery has vegan options tucked between the meaty standards. The night I was there, they served vegan bratwurst. Other days you might find a vegan fry bread taco or vegan chicken tenders. Its spot right on the Riverwalk lent itself to a pleasant walk back to my downtown hotel after a night at the beer hall. Where to stay Travel Green Wisconsin promotes sustainable travel in the state. Quite a few hotels scored higher than the minimum 30 points to make the list. Here are some conveniently located downtown. The upscale Hilton Milwaukee City Center , which has AAA Four Diamond status, scored 56 points on the green certified scale. The Pfister scored 63 points. This grand Victorian hotel has a spa , Energy Star light fixtures, windows and appliances, low-flow bathroom fixtures and, according to my sources, ghosts. I stayed at the Saint Kate Arts Hotel which, at 45 points, could be greener. But this newish hotel is fabulously artsy, with a gallery on the ground floor and interesting art, a ukulele and record player in every room. Rooms come with several albums, and the invitation to switch them out whenever you want to listen to something new. The hotel obviously saved a truckload of bargain bin vinyl from the landfill. I settled on 1960s Brazilian instrumentals as a soundtrack for my Milwaukee stay. Photography by Teresa Bergen

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Denmark hotel inspires green design through woodwork

November 1, 2021 by  
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In order to meet climate goals, the building industry needs to emphasize innovation and modern sustainable architecture practices. A new development located in Rønne on the Danish island of Bornholm has set out to do just that with the Hotel Green Solution House (Hotel GSH).  The building stands out among the rest, not only because of its green design elements, but because the structure, built and clad doesn’t follow traditional architecture in the area. It does, however, meet the certification standards of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). Related: KAJ Hotel is a one-room boathouse rental that exudes hygge The project is the newest wing of the Hotel Ryttergården and features 24 rooms, a conference room and a roof spa. Designed by 3XN/GXN, Green Solution House absorbs CO2 at every level with its wood material, a natural process that is expected to earn the project a positive carbon footprint. In addition to the wood selection, the team incorporated upcycled waste , such as construction offcuts that were repurposed in the furniture and surfaces, and debris from a nearby granite quarry that was put to use in the conference room.  “It is a dream to work with a developer who is completely uncompromising when it comes to sustainability and the circular economy,” said Lasse Lind, architect and partner in GXN. “This hotel will not look like others in Denmark and sustainability will be a central part of the experience. Through the project, we have collaborated with local companies, from craftsmen to material producers, who have all embraced the ambition to build completely climate-friendly, and who are helping to show the way for the rest of the country.” The area of Bornholm is booming with industry and tourism, even with the detrimental effects of the pandemic on both. Hotel GSH’s Director Trine Richter hopes the project shows the potential for continual growth in the area with a focus on passive design , energy-efficiency and natural building materials.  “Even though the hotel industry is having a hard time right now, we are full of expectation that the Danes will continue to spend their holidays in Denmark , and that companies will continue to demand meetings and conferences with a sustainable set-up,” said Trine Richter, director of Hotel GSH. “We are excited about the prospect of setting new standards for Danish commercial construction with this new climate-positive building, where the load-bearing structure will be made from wood. Everyone talks about it – we build it.” The layout of the building takes advantage of natural light and ventilation so energy needs are low. The entire development was designed with a cradle-to-cradle mindset. For example, elements throughout the space were designed for reuse with reversible joints to allow them additional life at another project site in the future instead of adding to construction waste.  “I hope that this project can help to show others the potential of wood construction,” said Lind. “If we want to be serious about achieving our climate goals , the construction industry needs to think and act differently, and therefore there is a great need for projects like this.” + GXN/3XN   Photography by Adam Mørk

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Denmark hotel inspires green design through woodwork

The world’s first self-sustained floating lounge, Aqua Pods

September 28, 2021 by  
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Aqua Pods, designed by Emirati-owned Aquatic Architects Design Studio (AADS) and produced by Innovative Marine Ventures (IMV), are the world’s first self-sustained multi-purpose floating lounge. The Aqua Pod AP EX1 model comes with a marine e-commerce application to provide consumers with personalized experiences and services. The pods can be used for leisure, entertainment, aquatic sports, tourism and retail off the coast and along the Dubai Water Canal shoreline. The AP EX1 model was designed to align with UAE’s Vision 2021, a multi-faceted initiative to improve the country. It aims to shift from oil as the nation’s primary income, to other means that are more efficient and eco-friendly. Related: Kiribati Floating Houses address rising waters and land limitations One of the six core components of the program is healthy environment and sustainable infrastructure . Aqua Pods aim to contribute to this venture, while taking a consumer-centric approach and exploring the concept of aquatic architecture. The sleek, floating modules are fully solar-powered to utilize the abundant desert sun, thus reducing greenhouse emissions. Additionally, to obtain fresh water, the pods contain a reverse osmosis water purification system to desalinate up to 100 liters of water daily without disposing the brine back into the sea. This is an optimal alternative to typical desalination systems in the Middle East that dump brine consisting of high concentrations of salt and chemical residues back in the ocean that threatens marine life, particularly when the dense solution sinks to the ocean floor Thanks to the multifunctional nature of the Aqua Pod, it is benefits the economy . It can be used for a multitude of activities and serve various industries to bridge on- and off-shore services. The design team has been insistent on creating an integrated commercial marine ecosystem to pioneer the future of floating retail, tourism, leisure and logistics. The floating developments can offer personalized experiences for events, water sports and tourism within the traditional and modern waterways of Dubai . The self-sustained AP EX1s can also be adapted to provide medical ambulatory services or deliveries along the canal, serve as recharge stations for marine vehicles and house cultivation systems such as hydroponics . In fact, the 45 sqm Aqua Pod EX1 model can even be expanded by 25 percent to suit the needs of the customers. AADS and IMV explore floating structures as a means of adapting to rising sea levels and climate change. The AADS team hopes that their projects will spark conversations on the necessity of urban floating developments in coastal regions and to prepare for the inevitable increase in water levels and diminishing coastline . Not only will this approach create resilient cities, but will support progressive, flexible economies around the world. + AADS Images via AADS

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Hundreds of mysterious stone structures discovered near ancient volcanoes in Saudi Arabia

October 19, 2017 by  
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Professor David Kennedy of the University of Oxford just discovered hundreds of mysterious structures near ancient lava domes in Saudi Arabia. Using Google Earth , Kennedy found approximately 400 stone walls that are believed to be more than 9,000 years old. Because the structures appear similar to others found in the Middle East , they have been dubbed “gates” The mysterious gates are located in the western Harrat Khaybar region of the country. According to the Bedouin, a nomadic group of Arab people, they were the “Works of the Old Men.” While there are similarities between the newly-discovered gates and others in the country, there are notable differences, as well. For instance, the gates Kennedy discovered are larger (the longest measures more than half a kilometer, the shortest is just 13 meters) and the space between them varies. Some are “almost touching” while others are “miles apart,” reports The Independent . Kennedy told Newsweek , “It is impossible at the moment to date these gates except relatively. I have argued in the article that they are the earliest of the so-called ‘Works of the Old Men’, the stone-built structures found widely in Arabia from northern Syria to Yemen , but especially common in the lava fields.” The “Old Men” are also credited with building “kites” – stone structures archaeologists say were used to catch migratory birds . They are found on top of the gates in other areas of the Middle East, signifying possible relationship. Said the Professor of archaeology, “The works known as Kites, which are certainly animal traps, may be as old as 9,000 years before present in some cases and there is one example of a kite overlying a gate. So Gates may be up to or more than 9,000 years old, which takes one back to the Neolithic .” Related: Large organic farm in Saudi Arabia switches to solar-powered irrigation Because the gates are situated on ancient lava domes (the volcanoes remain inactive), some of the structures bear traces of lava. This could prove a sufficient method to date the mysterious phenomenon. Kennedy’s findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy . Via The Independent Images via Wiley/Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy/Douglas Kennedy , Google Earth

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Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria

August 29, 2017 by  
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As the civil war continues into its sixth year, millions of Syrians remain in the divided, war-torn country. To meet basic needs and provide young people with a healthy place to play and learn, schoolyards across the country are being reborn as vegetable gardens . At these edible playgrounds, children learn how to grow tasty, nutritious treats, like peppers, eggplants, and cabbages. Then, when the time is right, they are able to harvest and eat what they have grown. This transformative experience offers students and their families an empowering experience of caring for one’s self and others. Young people, whose bodies and minds are rapidly developing, are particularly vulnerable to food scarcity and malnutrition . “Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases and important for children to be able to lead an active and healthy life,” said Adam Yao, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) acting representative in Syria. FAO provides funding and logistical support for 17 primary schools to plant 500 square meter fruit and vegetable gardens. These gardens are being installed in both government and opposition-controlled territory, so that young people will be able to access healthy food regardless of the politics and violence that surrounds them. Another 35 schools are scheduled to receive an edible playground in the near future. Related: Food-starved Syrians are switching meat for mushrooms Many Syrians now depend on bread and food aid from relief organizations to meet their nutritional needs. This sparse diet is far from traditional Syrian cuisine, which includes dishes such as hummus, minced lamb with spices and pine nuts, vibrant salads, stuffed cabbage leaves, and vegetable stews. These dishes are more are well served by the edible schoolyards , which provide some of the rich vegetables that have become scarce during the civil war. Further investments in agriculture could help to secure the population for years to come. “ Agriculture has become a hope for (many) because they can grow their own food and survive – even in the besieged areas,” said Yao. The seeds planted in the minds of these young children may someday yield a brighter, healthier Syria at peace. Via Reuters Foundation, FAO Lead image via FAO / Zaki Khozam , eggplants via Deposit Photos , others via Celine Nadeau/Flickr and DFID/Flickr

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Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

August 17, 2017 by  
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Meeting even basic needs in Gaza can be a challenge for the nearly 2 million people that live in the territory’s 141 square miles. Under  Israeli blockade, which prevents vital supplies from reaching Gaza and inhibits international trade, the Palestinians living there rely on resilience and innovation to survive with the resources they have. Squeezed out of arable land, many Gaza residents are farming upwards, on the rooftops of the dense urban Mediterranean territory. Rooftop farming is fairly new in Gaza. Starting in 2010, an urban farming project by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system, in which fish provide both edible protein and fertilizer for vegetables with roots growing into water, without soil. This initial design was adapted by others to suit their available resources and needs. The current model, designed and built by Palestinians, involves recycled plastic and wood being used to create garden beds, which are then planted with seeds from local farmers. Related: Gaza man’s DIY solar desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day The growing rooftop farming scene in Gaza is helping to met the needs of a population increasingly threatened by food insecurity. However, a garden is often more than simply the food that it produces. “There are many useful benefits with this project,” said Dr. Ahmad Saleh, an agricultural consultant, former professor, and community organizer who is helping to promote urban farming in Gaza. “Rooftop agriculture enables and empowers people. It allows them to find effective ways to confront environmental problems and helps create a healthier population.” Muhyeddin al-Kahlout, a former school director, sees his gardens as a social gathering spot. “We are experiencing severe power shortages and there is already a scarcity of recreational places,” he said. “Many of my friends liked the idea. Now they are starting to think about doing the same on their rooftops.” Via Sondos Walid / Electronic Intifada Images via  Mohamed Hajjar  and  David Berkowitz/Flickr

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Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

Dubai plans to launch autonomous flying drone taxis by mid-2017

February 17, 2017 by  
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Adding to its reputation as a leader in experimental transportation , Dubai is hoping to launch autonomous air taxis capable of transporting people far above the city’s traffic woes as soon as the middle of 2017. According to Auto Blog, the United Arab Emirates Roads and Transportation authority announced the plans earlier this week, after a demonstration of the technology at the three-day World Government Summit . The Chinese-made Ehang 184 drone used in the demonstration can travel at 62 miles per hour at heights up to 984 feet. The drone is powered by an electric motor that can spin its eight propellers for up to 30 minutes at a time, with a two-hour recharge cycle in between. Specially designed to withstand the extreme desert temperatures of the Middle East , the Ehang 184 also comes equipped with a variety of safety features designed to provide peace of mind to those brave souls who choose to fly in it. This includes a program that tells the drone to automatically land at the nearest safe destination if even the most minor thing goes wrong, and secure networks designed to ward off hackers. The fact that its flights are all monitored throughout by ground control should add additional assurance. Related: Meet Gita, an intelligent autonomous cargo robot that can carry your stuff And people could be trusting the Ehang drone with their lives sooner, rather than later, as the head of Dubai’s transportation authority has told the Kuwait Times his ministry is already experimenting with using the autonomous vehicle in-flight. Dubai’s experiments with autonomous drone taxis are just one part of its forward-thinking approach to transport. The country is also the future home of the Elon Musk’s first Hyperloop project , which will connect Abu Dhabi to Dubai, a 100-mile trip that will take just 12 minutes. Via Auto Blog Images via ETC-USC and Sam Valadi , Flickr Creative Commons

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Dubai plans to launch autonomous flying drone taxis by mid-2017

New solar canopy provides both shade and clean energy

February 16, 2017 by  
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In a beautiful marriage of form and function, architect and designer, Carlo Ratti has created a light-reflecting canopy that both creates shade and directs sunlight to a photovoltaic panel where it generates electricity. Called Sun&Shade , the canopy is built with mirrors that rotate automatically with the movement of the sun and reflect its rays to a solar PV panel “located a safe distance away.” Ratti just unveiled the Sun&Shade prototype at Dubai’s Museum of the Future , as part of an exhibit called “Reimagining Climate Change.” Check out the great video overview below. Ratti is no stranger to the world of functional eco art , with past projects that include: a “ supermarket of the future,”  his Paris “coolhouse,” and the New Holland pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. Of his latest creation, Ratti says his inspiration came from the architectural traditions of the Middle East. “In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space,” Ratti explained in a press release. “Sun&Shade aims to bring this concept to the next level, allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled.” Related: MIT’s “supermarket of the future” reveals every product’s history https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gC7Z_3iye8 The position of each of Sun&Shade’s mirrors can be set independently, allowing them to be used to not only control shading and the generation of electricity , but also to create different patterns or even letters from the shadows they cast. + Carlo Ratti Associati Via Curbed Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

January 20, 2017 by  
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Work on the world’s largest solar park is set to move forward this month. Phase 3 of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will add 800 megawatts (MW) of clean energy to the enormous solar park. The project could be a big win for the environment, expected as it is to displace 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year when it is completed. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and energy company Masdar are ready to commence Phase 3 of the groundbreaking solar park now that the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract has been awarded. Phase 3 will be 16 square kilometers, or a little over six square miles, when its three stages – adding 200 MW, 300 MW and 300 MW at a time – are complete, maybe in 2020 in time for the 2020 Dubai World Expo , according to New Civil Engineer. Related: Record-breaking solar prices in Dubai prove cheaper than coal Domingo Vegas Fernández, President of Spanish firm Gransolar , which received the EPC along with Spanish infrastructure company Acciona and Italian construction firm Ghella , said in a statement, “Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park project marks a new global milestone in the development of renewable energy in the Middle East and the world.” When the solar park is totally finished – probably sometime in 2030 – it will generate up to 1,000 MW. Phase 3 follows a publicized bidding war in mid 2016, where one record-breaking bid for Phase 3 was a cheap 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour , allowing solar power in Dubai to be even cheaper than coal. Dubai ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, for whom the solar park is named, recently presented the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which calls for 50 percent of energy sourced from renewables. Dubai aims to boost their share of renewables by “seven percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050,” according to Masdar . Via New Civil Engineer and Masdar Images via Dubai Electricity and Water Authority – DEWA Facebook and (????)?*:??? on Flickr

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Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE

January 6, 2017 by  
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In a move sure to please animal rights advocates around the world, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has now completely banned the private ownership of wild animals. This is big news, as owning exotic animals as pets is a sign of status in the Middle East country. Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that the new law outlaws both dealing in and ownership of all kinds of wild, domesticated and dangerous animals. This includes wild cats such as cheetahs, which have reportedly been domesticated in the UAE and other nearby countries. While not necessarily related, the new law comes on the heels of a video featuring an excursion with five tigers on a beach near Dubai’s Al-Arab hotel that went viral on social media, and other videos of people driving around with lions. According to Gulf News , these kinds of animals can now only be housed at zoos, wildlife parks, and circuses, along with breeding and research centers. Related: China makes it illegal to eat endangered species Gulf news also reports that anyone who breaks the law by taking any kind of exotic animal “out in public” will be slapped with as much as six months in jail and a fine or $136,000 USD. Al-Ittihad , an Arabic daily paper adds that people who use such animals to “terrorize” other people will be faced with a jail term along with the stiffer financial penalty of about $180,000 USD. Needless to say, a law like this is a breath of fresh air for animal rights activists, including El Sayed Mohamed. The regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Dubai said this new law sets an example for not only other Arab countries, but also the world. “We welcome and congratulate the UAE Government in taking this important initiative, which we wish to be a milestone for the rest of the countries, not just in the region, but also in the world,” he told the The National , an Abu Dhabi newspaper. This adds to more good news in the animal rights world, where China made it illegal to eat endangered species last year. Via Al Jazeera Images via Mukul2u and Cecil , Wikimedia Commons

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