Business is booming.

The Untapped Economic Potential of Zoos in Nigeria

During the festive season, I paid a visit to London Zoo located at Regent’s Park, Northwest London. When I visit public places in the United Kingdom, my instinct is always to compare with what is obtainable in Nigeria. I had booked my ticket almost three months’ earlier. Although I felt the entry fee was expensive, I always prefer to think of value and experience, not currency. The journey to Camden station, one of the few closest trains station to the zoo, took about an hour from my residence but I was eager to see if the British structure, intelligence, and system – the three major things that sets Great Britain apart in the world – can also be seen and experienced in a zoological setting.

Beyond this, I also wanted to compare a zoo in Europe, where conservation of certain animals requires intense effort because of the climate, to the zoo I have visited in Nigeria. I have been to the University of Ibadan zoological garden, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta zoological garden and the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) Zoo – all of which are nice places, but truth be told we still have some work to do in Nigeria.

My experience at London Zoo was fabulous. It was more than the animals they kept but the overall visitor experience. I could write another page on something called the experience economy, a phenomenon that has been made popular in various industries by Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore.

The closest to that kind of experience was what I had at OOPL zoo. Zoos in Nigeria must move from merely keeping animals to upgrading visitor experience. And the experience begins from the point where they first think about the zoo, how they access and pay for their visit, then what they see in the premises – it’s more than the animals. Unfortunately, many zoos in Nigeria are still struggling with the keeping of the animals in the zoo let alone devising strategies to make visits a memorable experience.

What are the problems? How can we begin to tackle them? Who are those responsible? All these I cannot answer in today’s piece. But today, I want to draw our attention to how investment in zoological gardens can positively affect a nation’s economy. If we can revive the dying zoos across Nigeria, we will be making significant contributions to our economy.

Zoological gardens play a crucial and often underestimated role in boosting a country’s economy. Beyond their primary function of preserving biodiversity and providing educational experiences, these institutions contribute significantly to economic growth. From tourism revenue to job creation and fostering local businesses, zoological gardens have the potential to roar as economic powerhouses.

For instance, despite a tough economic climate, with high inflation and rising interest rates, London Zoo, where I visited, reported a net income of £3.8m in 2022/2023. The total income of the period stood at £79.4m. That’s a huge contribution that doesn’t happen by chance. Efforts, structure, intelligence and systems were put in place, and it paid off.

This brings me to the first benefit of zoological gardens – tourism revenue. Zoological gardens are magnets for tourists seeking an opportunity to connect with wildlife. The allure of exotic animals, educational exhibits, and interactive programs draws visitors from both domestic and international markets.

The revenue generated from entrance fees, guided tours, and souvenir sales can contribute substantially to the local and national economy just like London Zoo is doing. Also, the operations of a zoological garden require a diverse range of skilled professionals, from veterinarians and animal caretakers to educators and administrative staff. By providing employment opportunities, zoos stimulate local economies, reducing unemployment rates and fostering a skilled workforce.

London Zoo has a workforce of 647 people in the UK alone and 105 overseas members of staff. If zoos in Nigeria come alive, more people will be motivated to study courses related to animal science and conservation which will provide a ready workforce for blooming zoos across Nigeria. The decline in our zoo is affecting the quality of conservation courses in our schools and a lack of workforce for zoological gardens and parks across the country.

Talking about local business and economic growth, zoological gardens often act as catalysts for local businesses and real estate opportunities. From catering services and souvenir shops to transportation and accommodation providers, these establishments benefit from the influx of visitors while increasing the attractiveness of the surrounding area which further contributes to economic growth. A booming zoo creates a booming business.

This symbiotic relationship stimulates economic activity and encourages the growth of local enterprises and real estate. The local areas most zoos in Nigeria are located in are suffering because the zoo is dying, and businesses cannot thrive in such an environment. One of the zoos I visited was better in this regard, but many zoos are still struggling.

Finally, another way zoos can contribute to the economy is through corporate sponsorships and donations from businesses that align with their conservation goals.

The financial injections from sponsorships can fund infrastructure development, research initiatives, and educational programs, indirectly contributing to the overall economic health of the country. Let me reference London Zoo again – it has tens of honorary fellows, patrons and donors, corporate supporters, charities, and trusts helping advance its cause.

Zoological gardens are not just havens for wildlife; they are dynamic economic contributors that resonate beyond their enclosure walls. If Nigeria recognizes the multifaceted benefits of these institutions, we can unlock the full economic potential of our zoological gardens.

By fostering a delicate balance between conservation, education, and economic growth, our zoos can truly roar as engines of prosperity for Nigeria. Structure, systems, and intelligence aimed at resurrecting these institutions is all we need to begin with.

Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via


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