Lion Escape: Why Wildlife Park Deserves Attention

Andy Ehanire
Andy Ehanire
The recent lion escape from Jos Wildlife Park and Zoological Garden in Bukuru, Jos, Plateau State and its subsequent killing by a group of people has reopened debate over the poor state of wildlife parks and zoological gardens across the country.
In fact, the Nigeria Association of Zoological Gardens (NAZG) has called on the government to pay serious attention to these conservation and recreational centres even as it has instituted a fact-finding panel into the incident.
Speaking on this development, the National Secretary of NAZG, Andy Ehanire who revealed the preliminary findings of the panele put in place by the association to investigate the incident of the lion escape, said the result has shown that weakness in the enclosure of the lion may have led to its escape.
‘‘In the course of our preliminary investigations, it became obvious that materials fatigue in the construction of the lion enclosure is prime suspect as to the main cause leading to the escape,’’ disclosed Ehanire who is also the manager of Ogba Zoo, Benin City, Edo.
He also revealed that ‘‘we equally probed for procedural lapses, since it is manifest human nature to sometimes deflect responsibility, especially where there are no witnesses. The Jos Wildlife Park was built some 43 years ago and material evidence point to culpable default in cumulative arrears of scheduled maintenance and required upgrades.’’
According to Ehanire, this incident has revealed the underbelly of zoos and wildlife parks in the country, which he said have become obsolete due to their ages and the lack of maintenance and modernisation through advanced technological improvement as is the case in other climes where these tourist centres are taken seriously.
The scope of its ongoing investigation, according to him ‘‘was to find out if other dangerous exhibits at the zoo were adequately secured, particularly those in the same enclosure from which the escape occurred. In which case, there was need to ensure that immediate remediation had been put in place and then help to determine the additional ones required in both the short and long term.
It was equally necessary to unravel the circumstances of the lion escape, as to getting the precise explanation for the incident. There is always the need to know if the incident was avoidable and the lessons to be learnt by both the management of the facility in question as well as other practitioners in the same line of duty, or as far as stakeholders would seek to know.
Of related interest was to examine the general state of the animal exhibits in the zoo, particularly as regards health and general wellbeing. In view of our socio-cultural environment, it is pertinent to review the level of institutional support and ambient policy environment of the zoo, which usually serve as common denominators in the Sector.’’
He disclosed that ‘‘a comprehensive report with technical details of our preliminary findings will be forwarded to the authorities of the Jos Wildlife Park. We would also request the findings of a panel set up by the authorities of Jos Wildlife Park on this incident. Once the panel’s report is made available to us, the Executive Committee of NAZG would request to schedule a meeting with the authorities of the park to discuss the issues arising therein. In the final analysis, the urgent repositioning of Jos Wildlife Park, along with other zoos in the country, remains the continuing focus of NAZG.’’
With the neglect visited on these natural centres, Ehanire calls on Nigeria government at all levels to pay serious attention to the funding and maintenance of the zoos and wildlife especially with a view to introducing basic technology given their economic and environmental importance.
To this, NAZG, he said is calling on the government to implement some of the recommendations, which were presented through a memo in 2012 to the National Council on Tourism meeting held in Ilorin, Kwara State, where it was advocated for priority to be given to these recreational centres through the national tourism master plan and the national tourism intervention fund in order to ensure a frontline attention and funding for them.
Furthermore, Ehanire explained that there is need to include conservation study or awareness in the curriculum of schools and seek for ways to engage the teeming population of youths in the country even as he insisted that  ‘‘this incident in Jos Wildlife Park is thus another wake up call for the authorities in conservation and tourism development to engage the developmental challenges in this key sector that also provides a veritable parameter for measuring a humane society.’’
The NAZG national secretary lamented the fact that there has been a prolonged absence of a coordinating body for zoos in the country but however, he said that the recent coming on board of NAZG will help to mitigate some of the issues affecting zoos and wildlife parks in the country as well as in the mobilisation and constructive engagement of all the stakeholders and operators in the sector.
To this end, Ehanire said that ‘‘under the current administration of President Mohammadu Buhari, there is urgent need, therefore, to build the required institutional support in concert with all relevant stakeholders, so as to arrest the prolonged slide in the standard of zoos in the country.
The Nigeria Association of Zoological Gardens (NAZG) is a nascent umbrella body set up to coordinate the collective issues affecting zoos in the country, particularly with a view to attaining the required standards and best practices in the sector.

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