The Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Parks (NAZAP) has been inundated with information of imminent closure of Imo State Zoo, Nekede.
As a result, there is heightened anxiety from environmental and conservation stakeholders on the quantum of biodiversity loss that would occur in the event of such closure, which would entail massive translocation of wildlife species from such a major zoo.
NAZAP has thus written to the Government of Imo State seeking the veracity of this disturbing information, considering that the zoo is one of the thriving zoos in the country that had recently undergone massive enhancement.
As the apex ex-situ wildlife curators Association, NAZAP is taken aback that no consultation has been made with the body as to such alleged intended closure.
May we recall the recent launching of Imo Hope Green Revolution that was flagged off by the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, which is a campaign for tree planting and nature conservation. The Governor had earlier made far reaching promises to protect Imo State Zoo and upgrade it to international standards, when he hosted NAZAP and other wildlife stakeholders during the 2020 World Wildlife Day commemoration in Owerri, Imo State.
If the Governor made these promises to the public and global conservation stakeholders, then we cannot be traumatised so soon by what appears to be a policy somersault. We should therefore hold the Imo State Government to its avowed principles and policy statements, otherwise our image as proud citizens of Nigeria, will be rubbished in the comity of nations.
The Imo State Zoo is a key member of NAZAP and amongst the earliest that blazed the trail in national zoo development. Its in-situ conservation scheme is registered amongst international conservation stakeholders, both in the index of liveable cities, climate change and in the aspects of sustainable development.
Our pioneer NAZAP Year Book has equally listed Imo State Zoo amongst its thriving national assets, thus deserving a pride of place.
We will be saddened by this turn of event, if true, especially as the zoo is now the only surviving zoo in the South East of Nigeria.
Bringing closure to this facility, as being alleged, will be a costly narrative for conservation education, research and tourism in Nigeria, in view of the zoo’s status as a major facility for field practical training of students, renewable natural resource, environmental, ecological and biological sciences centre.
NAZAP has thus advanced the option of encouraging pertinent partnerships with prospective private sector investors in ensuring the zoo’s overall development and sustainability.
However, in the event of any properly planned relocation of any zoo, the intended new location is meant to be fully developed before the animals are translocated. In contemplating the movement of a large number of animals, many of which are on the threatened or endangered list, the strategic and technical inputs of several agencies such as NESREA, VCRN, WISON and the National Park Service, including NAZAP should be factored.
In conclusion, there is every need for such exercises as Zoo closure to be appropriately guided to guard against untoward logistical or ecological eventualities. It is in the light of the above relevant circumstances that we advise that the State Government initiate the required protocols of engagement with the above stated professional stakeholders, if indeed the closure of such a facility is contemplated.