No elephant for the zoo – just yet

Plans to modernize facility

There will no elephant for the zoo just yet. And it will be expensive to modernize the facility.

The National Parks Commission (NPC) through the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment yesterday said in a statement that management is in discussion with its international partners on improving the Zoological Park and the possibilities of introducing an elephant as an added attraction as part of its strategic plan. The statement came following several futile attempts by this newspaper to reach officials to garner responses with regard to the state of the zoo and following the publication of an article and editorial in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek.

“The National Parks Commission (NPC) which has oversight for the Zoo in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment under whose authority the zoo falls is preparing a systematic plan for the development and expansion of the Zoological Park. This is being done with the involvement of international expertise,” the statement said. It denied that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission is paying for an elephant for the zoo and said there has been no such agreement with any sister agency, country or organizations for the acquisition of an elephant. However, it is discussing the possibilities of introducing an elephant.

The statement said that the ministry through the NPC has begun work to develop ‘Friends of Parks and Gardens.’ “The initiative will set a platform on which citizens can be involved in the improvement of the Botanical Gardens, Zoological Park and National Park which is crucial to ensuring a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations,” the statement said. It added that it is anticipated that the Friends group will support meaningful activities in education experiences, construction of new exhibits and support conservation works on the parks.

The NPC said that a strategic plan for the zoo is being developed and work has begun. The plan will provide for improved technical assistance, infrastructure and drainage development and specialized staff training among other expertise, the statement said.

It stated that most of the zoo’s exhibits are at least four decades old and some do not meet the changing standards of modern zoos. “Given the age of the facility and the existence of the structures, this is likely to be a costly and technically demanding process,” the NPC said while adding that expansion opportunities would come by using the site’s landform more advantageously. According to the NPC, while the Strategic Plan which is expected to have several phases is being developed, discussions are being held on what kind of animals the zoo wants to source and the Friends of the Zoo are directly involved in this process. It added that the plan includes the construction of a cat range, creation of more natural animal enclosures and enhancement of the existing ones, development of zoo infrastructure and addition to public amenities among other proposals. Plans have also been made to develop such enclosures that would have enough space for the flying birds where they would be able to breed.

The release said that that the snake exhibit is currently being expanded to increase holding capacity and has incorporated natural substrates that mimic the environment; the pond has been increased in size which allows the animal to submerse itself as it would in the wild. These actions all work into the larger plan of development and expansion, it said.

Furthermore, the NPC added, the private sector has responded to an appeal by the NPC in its effort to improve the ascetics of the Botanical Gardens and the Zoological Park by undertaking the clearing of critical drainage canals to reduce water accumulation during periods of heavy rainfall. The management of the NPC will continue to work closely with the private sector and other stakeholders in sponsoring events, supporting educational programmes, promoting conservation of endangered species and volunteerism, it said.

It pointed out that MACORP – CAT recently completed critical drainage works in the Zoological Park by providing an excavator which has facilitated the desilting of several waterways to alleviate flooding in the Zoo. “The support resulted from calls by the National Parks Commission for corporate support to aid in the rehabilitation and upgrade works planned for the Zoo. With approximately 10,000 visitors per month, the Zoo is one of the community assets and corporate support is critical to building a bright future for the Zoo,” the statement said.

It added that NPC management is looking forward to support from other corporate entities to provide additional support to further transform the Zoological Park and Botanical Gardens.

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