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Feeding humans in Nigeria is not easy, much less in zoos – Curator speaks on challenges of maintaining zoo

By Nneka Nwogwugwu

Mr Elkana Buckly, a zoologist and curator of the National Museum in Kaduna has explained chaleenges facing the operation of zoos in Nigeria.

Buckly said that anywhere there was urbanisation, it affected the natural environment.

The News Agency of Nigeria during a recent Survey observed that many of the popular zoos in the metropolis have been shut, while the few remaining ones have degenerated for lack of maintenance and patronage by Nigerians.

Buckly attributed the dearth of zoos to the unfavourable economic situation, saying that feeding humans in Nigeria was not easy, much less in an average zoo where one could have at least 50 different animals.

He said that the contemporary economic situation had led to hunting of some of the animals, which should have been kept in the zoo, or allowed in game reserves.

“Long time ago, it is not every animal that village hunters hunt even if they see them at the closest vulnerable position or place.

“Sometimes, the animals even rest on road passages linking one community to the other, but are left unhurt,” he said.

Buckly noted that hunting the animals led to extinction and created big vacuum in zoos, where they would have been kept safe for viewing in exchange for money.

“Herbivorous animals are easier to maintain. You can practice shifting cultivation of grasses, where the animals can be shifted to allow the grass they ate to replenish.

“The cat families are very dangerous and expensive to maintain,” he said.

The curator said there was no record of establishment of any new zoo for many years now, noting that even the old ones were closing down drastically.

“Even at our National Commission for Museum in Jos, and our flora at Makurdi, we have zoos, but it is not as it used to be, the bad state of feeding is visible on the animals, it is the economy,” Buckly said.

He explained that reasons why families no longer visited zoos, included the seeming change of mindset, disappearance of animals that were “crowd pullers”, and lack of resources.

“The animals do fall sick; the cost of treating and feeding them alone is huge money.

“For instance, in Yankari Games Reserve, there used to be many giraffes and zebras, but as I speak to you now, they are no longer there.

“Even the lions are not more than five, for a reserve of about 4,000 square kilometres, not even a zoo, it is really bad.

“All our zoos in Nigeria are now shadows of themselves, especially that of Kano, and Jos, where only one elephant is caged.

“Going there occasionally with children seeing only the same set of animals they have seen over and over again for years, will surely make them lose interest,” Buckly said.

Also, the Assistant Manager of Kaduna Splash Park Ltd, formerly known as Gamji Park, Mr Sulaiman Adamu, said there was no longer any zoo in the state due to the economy and improper management.

The Kaduna Splash Park Ltd formerly belonged to the state government, but was later transferred to a private individual as a result of poor management.

The park formally known as Gamji Park has few enclosed animals, including one lion, which allegedly died as a result of hunger.

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