Let Kano Zoo remain
By Mustapha Aminu Yusuf
At 4.25pm on Saturday 19th October, a crane-truck belonging to Kano Zoo pulled over at the zoo gate. It has returned home at last, after the five-day National Agricultural Show which took place at far-away Tudun Wada, Nassarawa State. In its tail-board, it carried a number of box-shaped iron cages each of which contained an animal. Among them was a carnivorous savage; the king of the jungle; the lion.
The return of the truck, the 17 animals and the personnel of the agency, all in one good piece, called for celebration. They had had not only a hitch-free but a most successful outing as well. Once again, the Kano Zoo had proudly clinched the highest award at the annual fair; the third in succession.
So, they entered the premises in a cheerful mood and earnestly began the next task of returning the biological luggage to their permanent cages. Having transferred the animals several times before, they could not have imagined a failure or a mistake this time around. They had a smooth sail all through until about 7:25pm when it came to the last, the lion’s turn.
Then the whole exercise took a most dangerous turn. The lion escaped soon after its transfer to its permanent cage. Certainly, it was, for a brief moment, safely within the confines of its narrow artificial den. But as it adjusted its body, probably for more convenience, its strong trunk pushed and opened a small gap in the shutter of an outer door, quickly slipping out. Once outside, the feline brute spared a moment to cast an angry stare at the people who, in panic, had earlier fallen to the ground in the ensuing stampede.
It then pushed its way through them before finally disappearing in the nearby bush. All these happened within a few seconds and with such speed as would all but allow anybody with eyes and legs to run. And run they surely did even though the lion shunned them all.
The story of the lion’s escape in Kano Zoo soon spread far beyond Nigerian shores. Supported by online media platforms, the local radio stations, specifically, made a sensation of the accident, blowing it much bigger than its real proportion. And reacting accordingly, the misinformed public drew wrong conclusions. Some, in exaggerated panic, went so far as to call for the relocation of the zoo.
But a strong case can be made against the idea of relocating the zoo. Since it is functionally well placed, it should be left in its present better site.
To begin with, the zoo poses no special threat to the safety of neighbouring residents. On any of the rare occasions it occurs, an animal escape can be controlled by its trained staff. As first targets and victims of any animal attack, they cannot afford to be negligent. They are, therefore, fully prepared with all necessary precautions and equipment to protect not only themselves but their neighbours and visitors as well.
The manner in which they handled this lion escape is, in fact, reassuring evidence.
First, they called in the police who came ready to shoot the lion if need be. Then they tried sedating the lion with special tranquilisers, which would have made it so lifeless that it could be carried, like a rag, back to its cage alive. Since they wanted to capture the lion alive, they defied the police, who wanted to kill it, and insisted on the sedation option. Although it didn’t work quite as planned, the sedation option delayed the killing of the lion and provided a good opportunity under which their last plan worked, a plan that entailed manipulating its known territorial behaviour.
It was this bahavioural manipulation that saved the day on Monday morning when another lion whose cage was adjacent to the stray lion’s roared. On hearing its neighbour’s roaring sound, the stray lion came back and entered its cage on its own, just as the zoo keepers had predicted and planned for. Inside, as it busied itself with the meat earlier placed as bait, the door was closed. If the zoo staff can manage such a dangerous animal escape without a fatality, neighbouring residents should feel re-assured, not uncertain, of their safety.
And again, if relocated, the zoo agency may lose not only a large portion of its visitors but as a result, also much of its generated revenue. Most zoo customers are urban dwellers who go there for reasons other than just watching exotic animals. Some only go to unwind and relax in its unique natural settings and others to entertain and amuse themselves with such cultural shows as plays, dramas and dances. On frequent occasions, a lot of other people organise wedding receptions, social and political meetings for which they do not have a cheaper or more convenient alternative.
Since a far-flung zoo will be even less convenient, most customers in this category may not patronise it.
It can be argued that at the time the Kano Zoo was built its present area was then a remote outskirts of the city. Granted, but looking closely at the larger picture, it is evident that late Governor AuduBako had knowingly planned to make the zoo the city centre in future. As he once admitted, he copied the whole zoo concept from London. And since all London zoos are sited within the city, he would not have meant the Kano zoo to be differently located. In addition, at the same time he was building the present zoo in 1972, he was also faithfully executing the second national development plan which had residential quarters in the immediate zoo surroundings.
His vision, realised now in the present location, would be defeated if the Kano Zoo is moved elsewhere.
Moreover, in pure technical terms, a zoo has to be freely accessible. If sited out of easy reach to the general population, it then becomes a game reserve, like Yankari, and entirely loses all its distinctive functional relevance.
Yusuf wrote in from
TUKUNTAWA QTRS, KANO.