PRIVATE farm Fame Park, owned by Emirati entrepreneur Saif Ahmad Belhasa, is an open door for the rich and famous.
Man Utd stars Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay were the latest footballers to take advantage of some time off and mix with exotic animals, including handling pythons, feeding giraffes, and cuddling baby tigers.
While in the past, the likes of Lionel Messi, Anthony Joshua, Floyd Mayweather, Paul Pogba and more have visited the grounds – meeting with Belhasa’s son Rashed, better known as YouTuber Money Kicks, for a grand tour and photo op.
But, Fame Park has its critics for its practices. Especially because it’s seen as a way for many influencers to get more followers and likes on Instagram.
And Scotland international McTominay, himself, has come under fire for enjoying a tug-of-war with a tiger.
The RSPCA has slammed Fame Park for using wild animals for the purpose of “public entertainment”.
Inside Fame Park
Fame Park is a private zoo, so unless you are incredibly wealth or a celebrity – chances are you won’t get an invite.
Owned by Saif Ahmed Belhasa, with an estimated fortune of £4billion, you’ll find over 500 animals, including lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, and even bears.
It was built in 2001, originally to house Belhasa’s horse. However, when the billionaire was given a lion cub he turned it into a zoo.
Many of the animals are named after famous people.
There’s two giraffes named after Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie, a monkey called Paris Hilton, and Ronaldo, Jackie Chan, Rihanna and Mariah Carey have also had animals named after them, as well as made the pilgrimage to the astonishing grounds you need a go-kart to negotiate around.
Footballers come in their droves, wowed by Belhasa’s wealth and the opportunity to feed a beast they’d never encounter otherwise.
Jesse Lingard, John Terry, David Luiz, Luka Modric and more have all fed a tiger or a cub some milk for a photo op.
Even boxers Anthony Joshua and Floyd Mayweather have gone toe-to-toe with some bears and orangutans.
The zoo itself can be seen from the lavish home’s living room and was featured on Channel 4’s World’s Weirdest Homes back in December.
Belhasa’s son, who goes under the moniker Money Kicks, confirmed that the zoo isn’t open to the public, the family don’t make a profit from it and the animals aren’t badly treated.
“We take care of all our animals,” he said.
“When I went to Kenya, I see a lot of lions dying because they eat once a month and here they eat every single day.”
Because of his wealth, Belhasa Jr – who once had a £200k Ferrari F12 Berlinetta wrapped in Louis Vuiton logos – rubs shoulders with celebrities who make him their first port of call when they arrive in Dubai.
“They all want to spend time on our family farm and see our tigers,” he told Dubai’s English-speaking newspaper, The National.
“Wiz Khalifa is my friend. Steve Aoki is my friend. They have all come to our farm.
“But sometimes I have to say no to celebrities who want to come here. I don’t have the time and it is tiring.”
Animals rights groups are unhappy
Despite Belhasa Jr’s claim, animal rights groups have been left bewildered by images showing Red Devils star McTominay in a tug-of-war with a tiger.
The midfielder was filmed alongside girlfriend Cam Reading with a selection of animals at Fame Park, and shared images with a tiger cub, a snake and an iguana on social media.
Fans online were livid.
One vented: “Why is he playing tug of war with a tiger? Disgusting.”
Another wrote: “Scott, I love you but this is wrong. Taking selfies with captive wild animals contributes to their suffering.”
The RSPCA shared their views with SunSport.
A spokesperson told SunSport: “Zoos often state that their aim is to educate the public and have a positive influence on visitor behaviour in ways that will directly benefit conservation.
“Whilst we understand that some zoos may feel that a ‘tug of war’ provides physical enrichment for big cats, there are many alternative ways of doing this.
“We don’t feel this activity promotes respect for these wild animals and should not be marketed for public entertainment.
“The RSPCA would always urge the public to consider their impact on animals when travelling abroad and engaging in such activities. Instead, we’d urge people to avoid some of the cruel entertainment practices they may see when on holiday.
“It is important for holidaymakers to research the activities they are taking part in first and if they are in any doubt, look for ethical alternatives.”
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