The 41-year-old Kano Zoological Garden was a hub of visitors, especially between the 70s and 80s. But due to neglect through under-feeding and outright theft of the animals, the place became a shadow of itself. LAWAL SABO IBRAHIM and ALIYU ASKIRA write that current efforts have made the place to be on the road to regaining its lost glory.
Though Kano Zoological Garden otherwise known as the Audu Bako Zoo was commissioned on the 14 of July 1971, the place is still far from being a standard one; at least it cannot be compared with the ones in Maiduguri or Jos.
The structure, since its commissioning, has not witnessed any major improvement or alteration until may be around the year 2000. That was during the first coming of Governor Kwankwaso, when the perimeter fence of the zoo was saved from encroachment.
At that time, the state government created a motor park and lock-up shops around the wall. That development led to the control of youths who had begun to encroach into the premises of the zoo to smoke; which also threatened the lives of the animals in the zoo then.
The bad state of the zoo in over two decades, really affected its patronage by visitors and other fun-seekers. It was merely turned into a rendezvous of sorts mainly to people who have no business being there.
A resident of Tukuntawa quarters just behind the zoo, Ibrahim Kafinta, told Blueprint that he used to patronise the zoo since early 80s but had to stop due to the type of picture it later began to have. “I first visited the zoo in 1980, as a primary school pupil, and continued to patronise it until the point I discovered that the place had been overtaken by hoodlums who hide under the guise of cultural dances. But, thank God its lost glory is being revived and people like me can continue our visits.”
He lamented that he was so disgusted when he last visited the zoo because he found out that most of the animals there were seriously under-fed and looked emaciated. Likewise, the varieties that used to be there were not available anymore. But he expressed happiness with the current efforts to revive the place, saying, “look I was so impressed when a friend who visited there recently, told me that there has been so much improvement in both the number and condition of the animals; as even a mobile zoo has been introduced.”
Another patron of the zoo, Yusuf Danlami, said one of his most-cherished collections is a Kodak ‘wait and get’ picture he snapped close to an elephant’s enclosure, which showed him as if petting the animal.
“In those days, my friends and I used to visit the zoo once every week on the average. We would be frolicking from one animal or bird enclosure to another; form one cage to another. In short, in those days there were several varieties and species of animals for one to see.
“I remember during one of our educational visits there when I was in secondary school, our expatriate teacher was trying to explain some points on monkeys, when without notice, a baboon in one of the cages excreted in its hand and splashed it on our teacher.
“The odour was so offensive and our teacher was so disgusted that, not only other visitors, but even we, his students did not know when we all burst into laughter,” he recalled.
A recent visit by our correspondent showed that people have begun to regain their confidence in the place due to on-going the re-stocking of the place with even more species of animals that were not available.
A kid visitor, Khalil Ibrahim from Kano Poly Staff School, told Blueprint that he had seen new species of animals which were not there when he visited the place last year.
“We come here from time to time with our teachers or with my cousins from home because I enjoy every visit. But today I saw ‘new’ animals that were not there even during our last visit,” he said, beaming with joy.
Blueprint findings revealed that during the last Kano agricultural show in 2011, Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso had announced the state government’s plan to establish a second zoo worth N500 million at the permanent site of the show at Bagauda along Kano-Zaria road, which incidentally, was also created by the late Audu Bako.
Speaking to our correspondent in his office recently, managing director of the outfit, Alhaji Ado Isyaku said the state government recently approved 60 million with which his administration has decided to construct a befitting amusement park, put interlocks on the pavements of the tarred roads in the zoo; build café, business centre, as well as a new staff training school. He added that all these were in a bid to improve on the tourism sector of the state. The money approved was however an addition to the 20 million naira budgetary allocation for capital projects in the zoo.
According to the managing director, though they met the zoo in shambles, they are doing everything possible to improve and modernize the place, adding that very soon they are going to take delivery of some animals from Cameroun apart from the ones they are buying from local hunters.
He revealed that all the animals in the zoo have specialised staffers attached to them. He was however quick to add that the workers do not mix with the animals ‘flesh to flesh,’ especially after one staffer was nearly eaten up by a lion, when he entered the canine’s cage, but he luckily ended up with a bite that had been treated.
On arrival at the gate, one will first be meet a signboard listing the dos and don’ts of the place, especially the ‘no go’ areas for fun seekers; the prohibition of feeding, trying to touch or teasing animals; as well as the requirement that children must be accompanied by adults. Also, visitors are advised to rush to staffer on duty in case of any emergency.
With the present arrangement, it is hoped that one day, this all-important relic of the first military governor of Kano State, the late Audu Bako, would be a ‘money spinner’ to the state.
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