What's new at UI zoo?
Life in Lagos was getting a bit hectic for me. My skin itched for my next trip and so I decided to do some exploring at home. I grew up in Ibadan, I'm no stranger to the city, but I had never really explored it (at least not consciously).
The zoo was my first stop because animals have always been a big part of my life and going with great company, is my idea of a day well spent. I'd visited this one a number of times and to be honest, it had never ranked high in my list of zoological gardens and my inner child had a feeling (more like a hoping) that this time would be different.
We hired a bolt driver to take us to Appleton Road, home to the zoology department of the university, and my face lit up when I saw that they had upgraded the entrance. We quickly bought our tickets for ₦500 (cash) and we made our way in!
Structurally and ambience-wise, it really is a lovely zoo. It's rustic, charming and the lush greenery makes it a very convenient place to spend a hot afternoon.
It opens up into the aviary, and my heart sunk to see that the birds were still kept in the same cages that had concrete floors and wire-mesh walls. The birds looked decently healthy but the spaces were cramped. Imagine a magnificent creature that is known for effortlessly gliding the skies subjected to this life. I didn't take pictures of this section because there was nothing memorable about what I saw.
Next, we saw some monkeys and their housing situations were barely a step up from the birds. These are very intelligent creatures but their cages lacked any kind of mental stimulation - no toys, no branches, no ropes and no family. Monkeys and other primates are social animals and to live a healthy life, need to be in troops. These ones have been separated to make the garden look populated and now most of them live solitary lives. I tried as much as possible not to think about all the things I thought were wrong and we made our way to the big primate section.
The zoo used to have gorillas but now, all that's left is a pair of adult chimpanzees that look so malnourished, their fur had begun to fall off. They both had some of the largest anal prolapses I had seen on any animal and I instantly regretted coming. They approached the protective bars and with the most forlorn expressions, reached out to us, begging for something... for anything... I didn't take pictures. I couldn't.
We checked out the reptiles next and they seemed in better shape. Reptiles are generally hardy creatures and you can't often tell if they're neglected. They go into survival mode and can often go for long periods in between meals, so that's one positive (I guess).
The carnivorous mammals were all in a sorry state. The lions, hyenas and jackals were skinny and a number of them displayed symptoms of captivity induced stress. An animal that is bored or doesn't feel safe will constantly pace in its cage indicating it's mental state.
The herbivores seem to be in the best shape; they have the cheapest food. The highlights of this trip were the giraffe, the ostrich and the camel exhibitions. They had ample room to roam around and it was obvious they were getting decent nutrition. I spent a bit of time here and it was a relief to be able to bond with something that wasn't necessarily starving.
I initially wasn't going to do a blog post on the zoo until I realised that the more people that know what's going on, the better the chance for those animals to survive. It already hurts to see animals taken from their natural habitats and put in captivity and it hurts more when these establishments can't provide the very basic resources required to take care of them.
This post is not meant to bash anyone, running a zoo is not a joke and funding is not easy to come by, but we need a solution. I suggest we implement an adoption scheme, whereby people become patrons of the animals. You pick an animal in the zoo and make donations to it's feeding and upkeep. The more popular the scheme becomes, the better care the animals get and the better the zoo staff can be paid.
If this is something you guys would be interested in, or have more solutions, please let me know in the comments.