The infamous East London Zoo, which has in the past received harsh criticism from animal lovers over the treatment and keeping of its animals, is well on its way to improving, according to Siani Tilney, the acting senior manager of marine and zoological services for Buffalo City Metro.
“The Zoo Improvement Plan is well underway. This does not include infrastructure changes at the moment and is a system of meetings and assessments that will lead to an informed plan on improvements and welfare that are sustainable and that will suit the zoo in a way that will allow for long-term change.
“Ethics and safety meetings are informing this plan and this will then make way for changes that are visual. While this is going on daily, animal husbandry is ongoing so that the animals are in continued good health and housing,” said Tilney.
She said that none of the zoo enclosures had been enlarged yet, as previously discussed, due to the zoo still updating and developing its “Animal Collection Plan”.
“This is a plan that correctly identifies what species can be housed in a manner that contributes to education and conservation of wild life and fits in well with the zoo’s present structure. This plan is an informed one and will come from continued ethics committee meetings and input from facilities around the country,” she said, adding that the plan should be finished around the end of next month.
“The jaguar enclosure is still going ahead. The movement of the jaguar into a bigger enclosure is dependent on the construction work on a present vacant enclosure where we will move the Hamadrayas baboons to [another enclosure] and then upgrade their enclosure to accommodate the jaguar,” said Tilney, who also noted that they were actively working with LAEO Ukraine on enlarging the brown bear enclosure.
Despite articles circulating claiming that the zoo would be buying wild dogs and the fact that the old wild dog enclosure is being rejuvenated, Tilney said it would not house wild dogs.
Instead the enclosure, once repaired, will be used to enlarge existing exhibits or move current animals which need more space.
She said that the public were still invited to get involved in the zoo through the Friends of the East London Zoo non-profit organisation. This way they would be able to assist with “daily projects and fund raising”.
“We will get the public and business more involved on a larger scale once we can give a more informed projection of where the Zoo is heading and how there can be a larger [buy in] on bigger projects.
“It would be better to be able to show a sustainable plan so that the public can be reassured that their input will be well used and long lasting,” said Tilney.
She said that some small upgrades to the infrastructure of the facility were underway and included the zoo boundary wall, staff quarters and the purchasing of equipment for a “small animal treatment and testing lab for daily use.
“We are also rolling out improved signage [educational and informative] in the next few months.
“We will receive details of the operational budget for the new financial year in the next few weeks. There are capital projects that amount to just under R1500000 and this will be used to enlarge and upgrade enclosures,” said Tilney, adding that the R1.5-million was capital money which would come into use from July and be used based on the Animal Collection Plan.