‘Snubbed’ after offering to help zoo
Lionel de Lange, the Ukraine-based bear expert who offered to assist with upgrades to the East London Zoo, says he has been snubbed by the Buffalo City Metro because he was told “I speak to journalists”.
The municipality, in turn, says De Lange has been “undermining government communication protocols”.
In February 2018, De Lange, the CEO of international environmental aid organisation the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation Ukraine, offered to fund a new enclosure for the zoo’s bears.
One of the zoo’s two bears, 35-year-old Jenny‚ has since been euthanased after becoming paralysed in the hind legs.
The surviving bear, Gina‚ had lived with her mother in a pit enclosure for more than 30 years, and remains at the zoo.
The National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) reacted angrily to the euthanasia, saying it had repeatedly warned the zoo about the bears’ condition.
De Lange and Algoa FM DJ Daron Mann have been crusading for better conditions.
De Lange, who runs a bear sanctuary in the Ukraine, offered to build a new bear enclosure and had met with Siani Tinley‚ BCM’s acting senior manager of marine and zoological services in 2018.
However, the discussions had now broken down, he told the Dispatch on Friday. “I was told [there would be] no more correspondence with me because I speak to journalists,” he said.
Prior to the breakdown in discussions, five sites were being considered at the zoo.
“As I was in Ukraine, I left it up to Siani Tinley to make the best decision there. She chose two, so I said, ‘Okay, let’s get some quotes for them’.
“But I was never ever sent a single quote. If I’m going to be investing a lot of money, I need to know exactly what the money is spent on. However, they would not divulge any information.”
He said BCM officials then went on Algoa FM to say the one (enclosure) was going to be about R1m and the other about R3m.
On the break-down in communication, BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said it was true De Lange had undermined “government communication protocols by commenting on private and confidential correspondences between us in the local media. This defeats the entire purpose.
“We have, however, not ruled out the possibility of working with him, as it is in the best interest of the zoo and the broader community,” Ngwenya said...