A day at the Zoo
Children have their own likes and dislikes. There are certain places that they like to visit and certain places that they wouldn't care too much about. Given the chance to select a place to visit, what would you do? What would you select? The Zoo or the Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala is sure to feature very prominently on such a list.
Designed into a beautiful landscape of colourful flowers, foliage and water fountains, the zoological garden is probably one of the few remaining places in the country where nature blends with a large variety of animal life.
The Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala was established over 80 years ago in 1927. Now it is rated as one of the best zoos in Asia. It has about 350 animal species and about 60 which are endemic to Sri Lanka.
Although it is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Asia, the Dehiwala Zoo had functioned in a very traditional way all these years. It was like this... You entered the premises with a ticket, walked from cage to cage, visited the aquarium and the aviary(bird cages).
You had a meal in some available space, and that was it! Then, on weekends, different shows like the elephant show, sealion show and chimpanzee show were presented. The animals were caged and well guarded, but people always complained about the lack of facilities and especially about the smell, at the zoo.
But now, things are changing for the better. The authorities have realised that the zoo continues to be popular among the public, right from the montessori student to the pensioner. They have realised that even with poor facilities and outside matters like bomb blasts, the income of the zoo had been steadily increasing.
A visitor to the Dehiwala Zoo now will get a totally new experience; prime among these changes is more space being allocated to the animals. For an instant, you will not spot the lion as it walks lazily around its cage. Because now it is in a very spacious place called 'Sinha dupatha'.
This programme has been extended to more animals with the objective of giving animals like elephants, birds, orang-utans and leopards more natural places and providing the visitor with a real feeling of nature. This change has contributed to improve the overall experience for visitors. Also, it has given the animals a chance to be more free and have a feel of its natural surroundings.
The zoo authorities have paid more attention to provide a new look to the zoo; so every department of the zoo has been working hard to achieve that goal.
One such area which has received a boost is the supply of food for the zoo animals. For instance, foreign animals which have been introduced to the zoo are initially given their normal diet, without giving too much consideration to the expenditure. This is done with the intention of safeguarding the new arrivals.
All the animals are fed on time, on the diet that is allocated to them, according to the required amount, depending on the needs of the animal. The feeding routine has been planned by the zoo's veterinary surgeons, after taking into account all information regarding the animals.The zoo produces food for these animals at its own farm at Ratmalana. This farm produces most of the food (grass and meat) required for the animals, while other things are bought at the local market. For a long time, the zoo has been in the habit of buying the necessary leaves and other food requirements from well-known suppliers who had been guaranteed to supply the best for the animals. Well-wishers who like to contribute vegetative matter (for example, tree leaves for animals) can contact the zoo for their donations. However, it is important that they are in good condition. There is also a rather strange incident which takes place at the zoo at meal times around 2.00pm. Birds which are not residents of the zoo, for instance the pelicans which are seen in and around Beira Lake in Colombo, all make a beeline to the zoo to partake in the feast, when the zoo birds are being fed. How they know this or how the message has spread, no one knows, but there they are.... right on cue.The zoo is a lovely and very exciting place to visit and is difficult to cover in one day. Likewise, there is much more to write about the zoo; this cannot be done in one article. So we will write more about the zoo in our forthcoming issues.