Starvation has hit Imo State Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park claiming the lives of over 250 animals valued at over N38 million.
The park, located at Nekede Anicent Kingdom in Owerri West Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, houses different species of animals including three lions.
Sources close to the garden disclosed that the surviving animals are near death due to hunger.
It was learnt that it cost more than N1.2 million to feed the about 500 animals in a month with some government subvention which is longer forthcoming. This is now threatening the extinction of the Zoological Garden established in 1976.
The Nation investigation revealed that the garden which was previously generating its own revenue from local and foreign tourists to sustain itself could no longer do so as the road linking the zoo to the Owerri capital city has collapsed, following an ecological disaster.
The only link road, said to have been constructed by the Rochas Okorocha administration, collapsed before the administration of Hope Uzodimma.
A foreign tourist, Michael Benbruse who spoke to The Nation, expressed displeasure over the poor state of the animals in the Zoo.
“I’m a Russian citizen and an international tourist. I visited Imo Zoo today to see for myself how the animals are faring. But I must tell you that I’m emotionally traumatised with what I saw in the zoological garden.
“What I see here is a near-death condition of the lions and other animals which are not catered for,” Benbruse said.
Efforts to reach the General Manager of the Zoological Garden, Francis Abisoye did not yield results.
The Head of Department (HOD), Forestry, Ozo Chino, refused to comment on the issue.
“I am just the HOD, not the permanent secretary or the commissioner,” Abisoye said.
“Over 250 of the animals have died because of hunger. To feed these animals costs just N1.2 million a month. And now the animals that we have lost are valued at over N38 million.
“The problem is not even whether the state government is giving us subvention or not, they can never get those species of animals we have lost because they are not animals you can get easily anywhere in the world.”
Contacted, the Commissioner for Tourism, Mr. Uche Ohia said the government has been facing a few challenges there, particularly the road linking the city to the zoo, which has been destroyed by an ecological problem.
He said the government was constrained with funding when the disaster happened.
“The state government has prioritised staff salaries and emoluments before the ecological disaster happened and we are trying to see where to squeeze some funds to ensure we sustain the animals before the road project is completed.
“When the animals are not well fed, they lose weight, it is not that they are not fed, but they are not fed as they used to be. We were stable before the ecological challenge and the animal population was well over 500 but now we have lost some,” Ohia said.
He however disclosed that “the governor has graciously approved some money for us to save the tide.”
On the alleged attempt to convert the zoological garden to an estate, he denied knowledge of such.
“I have also heard the rumour but I am not aware of any such plan,” Ohia said.
On the matter of subvention, he explained that the issue was gradually being phased out as every government project must now find a way to sustain itself in view of the government’s lean resources which followed the global economic meltdown.
“We want to see how we can make parastatals, agencies depending on government subventions to generate revenues to sustain themselves instead of becoming a burden. Tourism facilities must find a way to be self-sustaining. So, we are gradually driving towards that path,” Ohia added.
Source:- The Nation