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Sunday, 22 May 2011





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Zoo to be on par with the best

Orangutan - Mother Aki with baby Sakeefo

White Bengal Tiger

In the late 1920s there was a menagerie set up in Dehiwela by a German named John Hagenbeck, a member of a famous show-business family from Hamburg. Acquired by the Government in 1936 and following many a transformation over the years, today it is fondly known as the Dehiwela Zoo.

The National Zoological Gardens (Dehiwela Zoo) plays a great role in ex-situ conservation of local and international fauna. Located on a beautiful landscaped 22-acre plot, it is just 11 kilometres away from the heart of Colombo city.

In 1936, the Zoo was under the purview of the Government Agent of Colombo. Today it is managed by the Department of National Zoological Gardens of the Economic Development Ministry.

The Zoological Gardens has over 350 species of wild animals, birds, reptiles and various kinds of fish. There are about 100 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 65 species of ornamental fish, 35 species of dangerous and harmless reptiles and amphibians with over 2,500 varieties of birds such as water birds, pelicans and aquatic birds at the zoo.

Equipped with a five year plan the zoo is transforming into a more beautiful, state-of-the-art conservation centre with many short and long-term measures in the pipeline.

“Under the instructions of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa we are developing the infrastructure of the zoo, specially expanding the space for the animals,” said Director of the National Zoological Gardens and Director General Economic Development Ministry Bashwara Gunarathne.

Underground water tank

Many of the infrastructure development programs initiated last year are almost completed. A mammoth size underground water tank with a capacity of 30,000 gallons is built on the premises providing safe and clean drinking water for visitors as well as the animals.

According to Gunarathne the animals are essentially given clean drinking water purified by the Water Board.

A baby hipo with its mother

The swan pond, near the entrance which faced a disaster in the recent heavy showers is completely repaired with a permanent solution in place to avoid such damages. According to the engineers, the swan lake is on loose ground, so to strengthen the location an underground structure was built with metal rods attached to the bed rock.

The complicated construction is completed and zoo authorities are concerned on making the place more scenic.

The reptilium will get a facelift soon. Since the present one has less space it is going to be expanded into a three storied building. Initially it was decided to have a two storied building, but following the appointment of the new Director - Gunarathne it was decided to plan for three levels so that the residents, the reptiles would have more space to crawl!

The Nursery is under construction with an estimated cost of Rs. 31.9 million. The place for the babies of the zoo will be expanded to a three storied building, Gunarathne said.

Most importantly, the zoo is renovating four main roads for visitors especially for the differently abled. The roads will be built following international standards to suit the needs of the differently abled.

Many factors are considered in construction, such as the slope of the road.

For the benefit of the visitors two new refreshment blocks are under way. The complexes will include toilets, bathrooms and changing areas especially catering to parents with infants and toddlers. One block will be totally for foreigners and another, a bit larger for locals.

The first will cost Rs. 14.7 million and the other is estimated at Rs. 12 million. The restaurant and the welfare centres catering to visitors will also be renovated at a cost of over Rs. 30 million.

Rhino area

Abhaya - the new arrival to the zoo

As an initial step in expanding the animal living areas the Rhino area will be renovated with more space. “We need to give more space for the animals to live in more natural surroundings, letting them behave naturally as much as possible,” a zoo official said. In addition, a plan for an elephant free living area is also under way and will be finalised soon.

“We are concerned not only about one species but of upgrading the entire zoo and upgrading its services to international standards,” Gunarathne said.

“The staff is very dedicated and caring but that itself seems to be not enough when considering certain post-mortems done on several animals a few months back.”

“We need the public who visit the zoo to show kindness and love to these innocent creatures. This unfortunately does not happen at times,” he said.

According to him some people throw coins, blades and such harmful items to the animals which the beasts swallow. It is a very tragic situation. zoo authorities are making extra effort to educate and make people aware of the negative impacts of such inhumane actions. “Adding more to the list is of course the menace of visitors littering the grounds and feeding the animals.

Visitors feeding animals is a grave issue as most species have recommended diets. So please don’t give your snack bar as it’s an offence resulting in a penalty under law”, he concluded.



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