Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

17 Feb Written by  Maryam Isa

Inside the National Zoo in Need of Funding

“The government established this place with the sole intention of handing it over to a governing body, but that never happened,” Deputy Director of the Zoo, Mr. Aminu Muhammad, said.


Established in 2001, the zoo was opened to entertain and to educate. Lately, the zoo does both but in such limited capacity. The 300 or so animals present at the zoo back in 2004 have drastically reduced, many of them have died. The grass is partially dry, some cages are unkempt and reek, while others are empty, the animals long gone.


“The zoo is not improving,” complained visitor Mr. Olowu Samuel, who brought his children to the zoo, but was disappointed to find fewer animals.


“With the standard of this park there should be so many animals like hippos and elephants, so that at least thechildren will be able to see and identify them. When they see the animals in the textbooks they will be able to say ‘yes this is the animal I saw in the National Park’,” he added.


Out of the missing animals, Mr. Olowu pointed out, is the giraffe. A staff working at the zoo explained that the giraffe had died because of a blockage; it ate a polythene bag.


Freelance database administrator Mr. Paul Udoh noticed the zebra and the horse had peculiar bruises on their backs, and wondered what was wrong with them.


“The animals need to be tended to well; the zebra we saw had a wound on it,” he said.


He urged the zoo keepers to feed the animals, and bring some more if they can.


Miss Onyinye Ude went to the zoo with hopes of seeing the large python, but when she arrived, the python’s habitation was empty.


For others, the missing animals at the zoo didn’t seem to be problem.


Seven year old Miss Leonie Uwemedimo was visiting the zoo for the second time and she enjoyed feeding the horse. Meanwhile, first timer, Miss Ekemini Ekarika, loved the ducks and swans, and was looking forward to seeing the crocodiles.

The crocodiles were donated by Mrs. Amina Titi Abubakar, wife of former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, when they were as tiny as lizards. Currently all grown up and reproducing, their little barricaded pond is small. Although the pond is washed every two weeks, lichen, plants in the water,have turned the water green. The Director said the greenish look of the pond is deliberate, so it can look as natural as possible to the crocodiles.


Miss Natalie Sombo, an event planner, used to enjoy coming to the zoo to recreate, and bask in the tranquility of the environment.


“The zoo wasn’t like this, it is now lifeless and has few animals,” she said.


She is convinced the problem is that there is no money going into the zoo.


“I don’t know if enough money is being pumped into the zoo otherwise why are they dying? The place needs serious rejuvenation. Look at the leaves, the trees, it should be more vibrant and alive,” she added.


“We don’t have any source of funding but for the revenue generated internally, which is used to maintain the zoo and pay the staff their salaries,” Mr. Muhammad explained.


Most of the money comes from the gate fee, which charges adults N200 and children N100. A committee ordinarily was in charge of maintaining the zoo.


“The committee is not doing anything at all right now,” he said.


But after ten years, the committee was replaced. The new committee, which is headed by the Minister of Tourism, has not held a meeting since June 2013.


The zoo, asides from hanging on to the fees from the gate, is also reliant on donations from well meaning individuals and organizations. The Nigerian Turkish international College last month began constructing a borehole and a tank at the zoo so that even when there is no power, there will be water. Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) constructed an eagle cage, and a former ambassador of Poland to Nigeria donated another cage. 


The RCC had indicated interest in managing the zoo for a year but the presidency, which the zoo falls under, is yet to approve. Mr. Muhammad has numerous plans to revive the zoo. He wants to establish an education centre, upgrade the dilapidated structures, and bring in more animals in social groups.


Mr. Muhammad appears very passionate about the zoo, but with limited funding, only so much can be done to keep the animals at the National Children’s Park and Zoo alive.