By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in collaboration with the Protected Areas Commission on Tuesday (January 28) signed a $32M contract for the construction of a petting zoo within the National Zoological Park under the Threes Park Initiative.
The Contractor, Alvin Chowramootoo says works will begin as soon as tomorrow. He is confident that there will be no difficulty in constructing the facility which he says entails basic and civil works. The construction is expected to be completed within four to five months.
According to Commissioner of the Protected Areas Commission, Damian Fernandes the construction of the petting zoo is just the beginning of a master plan to modernize the zoo and Botanical Gardens and make it more visitors friendly.
He explained that currently works are ongoing on improving the infrastructure, after which special attention will be given to importing and ensuring more exotic animals are placed in the zoo. He said currently the zoo functions as a rescue center (more or less) for abandoned and unwanted species.
Meanwhile, according to Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Robert Persaud, it is expected that once complete, the petting zoo will significantly increase the amount of persons who visit the facility. Currently the zoo is said to record approximately 10,000 visitors monthly.
Minister Persaud acknowledged that the idea is relatively new to Guyanese but is hopeful that they will ‘buy into it’. He apologized for the ongoing construction but said it was needed because of the lack of attention that was paid to the zoo in times past.
When the announcement was made earlier in January of the plan to construct the petting zoo, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon had said that it was foolishness and that he would have never agreed to this idea.
When asked today about these utterances from the Cabinet Secretary himself, Minister Persaud said he subsequently had a talk with Dr. Luncheon and that he has since embraced the idea. “He is convinced and fully aware of what it is now and has embraced the idea.”
Persaud also registered his disappointment in the response of the private sector to the idea. In this regard he has called on all to play a role [however they can] and be a part of helping to improve the zoo and the gardens within which it is found.
He believes that the petting zoo will also serve to change the cruel culture that currently exists within the Guyanese society when dealing with animals.
It is the hope of the Minister that once the petting zoo is complete, visitations will increase after which moves will be made to increase the fees for visiting the zoo which he described as ridiculous.
Petting zoos are a common feature of most modern zoos and are meant to provide a contrast to the usual zoo experience. It provides for the opportunity for to physically interact with animals and will provide a highly effective means of educating individuals on issues life wildlife conservation, humane treatment of animals and generally develop an increased sense of appreciation and empathy for animals.