A couple of years ago, precisely 2003, I started the Save Port Harcourt Zoo Campaign, with the aim of raising awareness on the need to save the local zoo from collapse as a result of ‘inadequate care and nutrition for the animals.’ The goal was to ‘to set up a Zoo Renewal Fund’ in addition to a student volunteer programme at the zoo.
The main justifications were: the Zoo was an important venue for learning and recreation, not many such spaces were available in the city for the later at the time, and with the zoo in good shape, our kids could at the very least see the animals about which they are thought in class without needing to travel out of the city. The thinking then was to eventually expand the project to include broader issues like: conservation, wild life education and zoo management. At the time, I received one correspondence from an individual at the Nigerian LNG who suggested the company could sell scraps to support the Zoo. A couple of years later, the project also generated some discussion on the internet, with calls for and commitments to support.
So when I saw this article [Enchanted by Port Harcourt’s Wildlife Park, Sept. 2011] which suggests there might have been some improvements at the Zoo, I was so delighted. However, this other article [Nigeria-Wildlife: Where have all the animals gone?, Nov. 2011] published two months later suggests differently. Having not been to the Zoo in several years, I am unable to verify or refute the content of these articles, but it will be a very big relief if the Zoo is indeed getting some attention.
Whenever I have an opportunity, I will visit the Zoo, and share my thoughts on its state and the state of the animals. Whatever the case, it is certain that the Zoo will require better funding from the government and support from the private sector to undertake many tasks, including simple ones like better shelter for the animals and setting up a website. I hope that going forward some support can be mobilised in this regard, and perhaps the ‘Zoo renewal fund’ can finally be established.