Workers have been busy clearing out buildings, removing dried vines from cages and sprucing up the aquarium at the Georgetown zoo. These actions are long overdue and follow several reports about the poor state of the Zoological Park.
An old building, located a few yards along the park’s walkway, was being cleared out by National Parks Commission (NPC) staff on Wednesday when Stabroek News visited.
Another building, located towards the middle of the compound and which once housed a health facility, was also being cleared out by workers. Stabroek News understands that the building will once again be transformed into a health facility for animals.
It was also observed by this newspaper that a cage of wading birds had access to clear water; an improvement from the green, murky pool which was there about a month ago. Other bird cages were also cleaned of dried vines and appeared brighter. Visitors to the zoo that day met a compound buzzing with activity as workers went about a series of tasks.
The third building in the compound on which workers were working was the aquarium. It was being given a fresh coat of paint; the fish tanks were cleaned and their air tubes maintained; and the mesh which covers the concrete tank which houses large marine turtles was being mended.
Frankie Cupidore, an aquarist attached to Tropical Outdoors and Pet Store, accompanied Stabroek News to the aquarium on Wednesday. “They have the aquarium in reasonable state,” Cupidore said, “but they need to keep the glasses clean and pay more attention to details like the type of bulbs used for lighting.”
The fish tank located below the big ‘Arapaima’ sign is lit by a high watt bulb. Such bulbs generate too much heat, change the water temperature and also result in the build-up of moss on the glass case, Cupidore explained. Cupidore also observed that most of the fish tanks were not equipped with filters but said this would not be a major problem once the water was changed regularly.
All the tanks in the aquarium contained aquatic life and two tanks, which were previously dry, contained water with fish.
Currently, the aquarium contains several species of local fish. It once had arapaima, which generated a large amount of interest in the aquarium. In January, two of the species were being held in a concrete tank located in the middle of the aquarium. On Tuesday, Stabroek News emailed Vasconcellos requesting information about the aquarium. She was questioned about the amount of the zoo’s funding allocated to the aquarium, whether there were any plans in place to improve the facility and about what happened to the arapaima. Vasconcellos has not responded.
Stabroek News learnt that the arapaima, a naturally aggressive fish, died after slamming into the tanks’ concrete walls while swimming. The zoo’s aquarist is now considering lining the tank’s walls with a soft, agreeable material to avoid this problem when the zoo gets more arapaima. “We are trying our best with whatever little funds we have to do something with the aquarium,” an employee said.
The employee said that the zoo is apart of the extended Guyanese community but lately the link between the two has deteriorated. “If the zoo is to return to how it used to be,” the employee opined, “then the people need to take an interest in it and the animals and help us in any way they can.”
The NPC board is responsible for administrative issues at the zoo and it is through it that the facility receives funding. At a recent press conference, which addressed various issues raised in recent reports by Stabroek News, NPC Chairman John Caesar stressed that while government subventions have increased, the zoo still needs more funding for proper maintenance.