R2,4 million to improve EL Zoo
By Mihle Tolobisa
R2.4 million has been allocated for renovations of the East London Zoo following pressure from animal rights activists to have the Zoo closed after allegations of animal cruelty. On the ground construction work is about 40% complete and the zoo has not been taking in any new animals for the past two years.
The outcry about the zoo was sparked by pictures that circulated on social media in early 2018 showing Jenny the bear in an unhealthy state; she was later put down following a collective decision. Her daughter Gina is still at the zoo.
In 2018 Samkelo Ngwenya, spokesperson of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality admitted that there were areas that needed comprehensive improvements such as security, staffing, welfare, and infrastructure.
Speaking for Ban Animal Trading, Smaradga Louw said they are still not happy with the municipality. “The building process is slow, they are unable to take care of the animals and they are not being honest about not taking in any animals, they replaced the vulture with four birds.” Louw says they will release a comprehensive response to the updates about the Zoo.
Animal rights activist Chief Joseph Kreeling, said they are happy that some transformation is being done. “We do not want the zoo to be closed, we want it to be transformed, we want better living for the animals and we want it to be friendly for all groups of the community.”
Phase 1 of the relocation of the Jaguar to another exhibit at the Zoo has been approved.
Animals that needed housing and welfare requirements were relocated to other reputable facilities outside of the Zoo, this includes the Vulture.
According to Ngwenya, “We have done assessments of the Jaguar and its enclosure and realised that we should build a new enclosure,” said Ngwenya. He adds that a visit by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) did not note any concerns and that is a good indication of the positive progress made.
“The Queens Park is the one place that people can go to when they cannot afford to spend time and money at larger facilities learning about wild animals. A Zoo makes it possible for animals and people to have some kind of an experience together where people can learn to respect, love as well as understand the natural environment of wild animals,” said Ngwenya.
He added that a Zoo cannot be closed because it provides education and conservation.