The first phase of the National Children’s Park and Zoo in Asokoro, Abuja, was inaugurated by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 with many wild animals.
Twenty years after, the planned second phase that was intended to bring it to world standard has not only remained a failed hope, the existing one is begging for urgent attention. As you walk in through the only gate of the zoo, Aso Rock, the seat of power, stares at you.
Our reporter was received at the gate by the deputy director in charge of the zoo, Mr Aminu Muhammad Beli. We were shortly joined by the zoo’s veterinary doctor, Dr Badaru Abubakar. We all walked round the facility, which was devoid of other human presence. The animals enjoyed their solicitude, or so it seemed, until the donkey began to bray.
Daily Trust on Sunday was told that the park and zoo had seen better days, but the situation later changed, even as the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse for the facility, which was designed to be self-sufficient through revenue generated from access tickets. In spite of the seeming decay, it was still recording appreciable patronage from members of the public as it is the only of such facility in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Our first point through the well-manicured walkway was the Africa buffalo enclosure. There are only four of them, the youngest being two years old, the deputy director, Wildlife, Beli, told our correspondent. As the deputy director called “Romeo,” a huge beast reluctantly began to trudge closer, after a long stare at us. I thought I wasn’t welcome, but thankfully, the barrier gave us a measure of safety. The animals picked up the leaves thrown at them and chewed gleefully.
The next stop was the lions’ den. There are two of them, named Jimmy and Danjuma. They were part of the latest acquisitions of the zoo following a series of disappointment and complaints by visitors. A Hyena in its enclosure A Hyena in its enclosure The zoo, which had lost many species of animals in the past, such as giraffe, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebra, impala, among others, presently houses about 23 species, comprising of buffalos, lions, hyenas, crocodiles, monkeys, tortoises, snakes, ostriches, horses, donkeys, birds, kangaroos and antelopes.
Although the park does not have an arboretum, it has indigenous species of trees like mahogany, shea butter, locust beans, azalea trees, truculia Africana and many other native trees with economic values. The zoo, which is embodied with wildlife, natural lake and rock, is divided into two sections, where the animals are kept, and playgrounds for visitors, Beli told Daily Trust on Sunday.
The park, which is managed by a special committee under the State House, was mainly established to impart knowledge, aside connecting to nature. “Majority of our visitors are children. But at weekends we usually have other groups, where adults come to connect to nature because the park is out of the city, where people can come and relax,’’ he said.
While noting that before the COVID-19 lockdown, they used to have a lot of schools coming for educational visits, Beli also said that during festive periods they were always overwhelmed with visitors who came for picnics and to connect with nature.
Visitors often go around to see the different types of animals available in the zoo and are educated on why they should conserve plants and animals because they work together to balance the ecosystem. He said, “We educate them on reasons they should not destroy their environment for future generations, especially looking at the manner in which plants and animals are destroyed in the country, which has led to the extinction of many of them.’’