Scores of East London residents put their shoulders to the wheel at the East London Zoo when they cleaned up walkways and bushy areas to do their part for Mandela Day yesterday.
Clad in overalls, gloves and equipped with rakes and black bags, many caring residents pitched in to help.
In an attempt to help preserve the zoo and all its inhabitants, Stratford’s Guesthouse owner Iris Stratford brought two of her staff members along to help in the clean-up.
“I am very aware of recycling and keeping the environment clean and when I saw the post on Facebook asking for help, I knew I had to be a part of it.
“I love the zoo and it truly is a wonderful place with all the beautiful animals and birds and to be able to clean up the walkways is just a small way of contributing,” she said.
Another business owner, Andrew Maclachlan of East London Compost, initially needed leaves from the zoo to add to his compound and decided to bring along four staff members and his family to help.
“I feel blessed to be a part of this initiative because the zoo is a heritage site and holds many fond memories for many people and any amount of change can add to the bigger picture.
“We need to create social awareness around preserving and maintaining the zoo because it is a beautiful place that just needs some attention,” Maclachlan said..
“I disagree with the people who have said that it [the zoo] needs to be shut down because if we, as a community, just do our bit and add it to the resources of the municipality this place can thrive again.”
Buffalo City Metro (BCM) municipal services portfolio head councillor Helen Neale-May welcomed the initiative.
“We have Friends of the Zoo who help out on a regular basis and the work they are doing today is great.
“We are very grateful and appreciative of their support and time even though we do have a cleaning team whose responsibility is to clean the sidewalks and bushes, this type of contribution is always welcomed,” Neale-May said.
She added that the zoo had employed former military veterans to protect and keep the premises safe for both the animals and the public.
Speaking to the Dispatch yesterday, BCM council speaker Alfred Mtsi applauded the work done by residents.
“Our biggest concern is the current state of the zoo which has become quite dilapidated over the years and I am happy that councillor Neale-May has taken on this project to better maintain the zoo.
“The income generated at the gates and the subsidy from BCM is not sufficient enough and this kind of initiative is great for the zoo because we don’t want to see the gates close,” Mtsi said.