Zoo looks at improving life for the animals in its care

Metro following up progress of blueprint for upgrading facilities

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The East London zoo first came under fire when news of the death of Chacma baboon, William, surfaced in 2017, and saw the NSPCA lay charges of animal cruelty against zoo staff.
Since then social media pictures and videos depicting small enclosures and deteriorated standards have continued to cause outrage, fuelling an ongoing online petition to shut down the city’s zoo.
The petition has already receiving over 148,000 signatures, and the latest social media outcry against the zoo this week saw a mass call to assist Ukraine-based LAEO founder and animal activist Lionel de Lange in finding a lawyer to help close down what he calls South Africa’s “zoo of horrors”.
De Lange said: “We have given them more than enough time and it’s been over a year and nothing has been done.”
Buffalo City Metro is continuing to follow a zoo improvement plan in an effort to upgrade the facilities.
BCM spokesperson, Samkelo Ngwenya, speaking on behalf of acting head of marine and zoological services Siani Tinley, said that the improvement plan had yielded positive outcomes.
The animal collection plan had been amended, aviaries would be opened up to exhibit birds in a free-flying manner and there was a shift to educational entomology and ecology exhibits, with the zoo’s first entomology day taking place this month.
Two interns have joined the zoo as an environmental educator and horticulturalist.
“Our collection plan looks at what animals we have now, if it is viable to keep them and which animals should be relocated, but it also focuses on our vegetation and botanical collection,” Ngwenya explained.
“The vulture was identified as an animal that needs to be relocated months ago, and we are in the process of moving him to a national facility.”
He said that they had applied for extra funding to make the jaguar’s enclosure bigger, and that once finished it would be 400m². However, none of the applicants for the tender had qualified to do the job.
“People need to understand that this jaguar was hand reared, so a lot of his enrichment comes from seeing people and interacting with the zoo staff. The enclosure is small, but he is not being neglected and he is in very good health,” said Ngwenya.
As for the bears, which continued to spark outrage on social media in 2018, Ngwenya said that since Gina was euthanased in October last year, Jenny, her daughter who still resides at the zoo, had not shown any decline in health.
“Her eating habits have stayed the same and she is being monitored regularly. She also receives various forms of enrichment,” said Ngwenya.
Jenny was receiving a balanced diet and staff were placing various objects, such as leaves with different scents and enrichment toys, around the enclosure.
Ngwenya said one reason for not accepting De Lange’s offer to pay for the construction of a more suitable bear enclosure was that BCM had not received the minimum size requirements for the enclosure from De Lange.
Dispatch visited the zoo this week and saw the bear climbing slowly on rocks in her same pit enclosure.
The jaguar was still in his same small wire cage, from over a year ago, but appeared to be healthy and agile.
Ngwenya agreed the zoo had shortcomings, but said there was a conscious and continuous effort to improve.
NSPCA National Senior Inspector, Vonny Strachan, said they were monitoring and inspecting.
“The NSPCA is opposed to the keeping of wild animals in captivity and the use of animals for human entertainment. The NSPCA remains of the opinion that wild animals belong in the wild.”..

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