One who had visited the Central Zoo at Jawalakhel a decade or so ago will find the place in tatters today. He will surely be shocked and disappointed at the reduced species of animals as well as the poor way in which the zoo is being tended. If one takes a cue from the present state of the zoo, it can be listed among the worst managed ones. This reality is disheartening for the only zoo of the country.
Anyone living in Nepal and wishing to visit a Nepalese zoo will have to come here. To the dismay of a visitor, many animals and birds have been removed and those that are still here are pathetically handled and taken care of.
At a time when a zoo is being recognised as a centre to spread conservation education, the mismanagement of the Central Zoo only tends to give negative messages. Ironically, more and more animals and birds are vanishing from the zoo while more and more concrete structures are being added. It seems that most of the zoo keepers are working with a jagire mentality rather than with a sense of devotion and interest to take care of the animals.
It is not a job of a mechanical nature. It is about building close friendship with the animals. If a caretaker fails to understand and cater to the subtle needs of an animal or a bird, it will become miserable or die.
The management of the Central Zoo needs to change the notion that this is a place to cage some animals, sell tickets to a horde of visitors and promote the stalls of junk food and souvenir shops. Instead of constructing iron and cement structures, they should focus on creating a real habitat for the concerned animals and birds where they feel at home.
Let the place give the picture not only of the animal but the type of natural habitat where it lives. The sooner they phase out the caging concept the better. This requires devoted caretakers, wider space and inputs from conservation experts who know the deeper needs of an ideal wildlife habitat. And there should be vet clinics with stand-by doctors instead of the food and souvenir stalls.
The zoo, established by the Ranas, is currently managed by the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). NTNC is an organisation that has earned good track records in conservation activities. The poor management of the zoo only serves to downgrade the image of the trust.
It is known as the Central Zoo though there are no satellite zoos in the regions, zones and districts of Nepal. As a result, the zoo lacks no visitors. Only its attraction needs to be upgraded. If a visitor gets a ticket to see wild animals he has never seen and ends up walking around empty cages and bustling shops, it will only disappoint him.
I revisited the zoo recently with my nephew from the village and was disappointed by what I came across. My nephew had come with a list of wildlife - ostriches being among them - which he had heard could be seen here. He was unhappy as many of them were not there.