The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted a motion with the Buffalo City Metro municipality calling for the complete shut-down of the East London zoo.
The motion, formally submitted on February 18, marks an escalation in the ongoing fight over the future of the East London Zoo, which has been plagued by accusations of mismanagement and animal mistreatment.
A number of examples of poor conditions are listed in the motion, such as a vulture which is kept isolated instead of socialised with others of its kind; a turkey whose enclosure contains no environmental enrichment; and the hand-raising of several jackals despite the species being classified as vermin.
According to the DA, the zoo lacks the budget and skilled staff to properly care for the animals. The motion proposes:
- The acknowledgement by the municipality that it cannot afford to maintain the zoo.
- All zoo animals that can be relocated are transferred to an approved sanctuary.
- Animals which are that old, infirm or psychologically impaired are humanely euthanised.
- The zoo is closed within six months and is reopened as a botanical garden.
DA councillor Annette Rademeyer said the DA had has pursued this issue since 2013.
“In spite of this, we still have not received any meaningful answers from the BCM council. The conditions under which animals are kept in this zoo by the Buffalo City Metro are unacceptable and is not conducive to their welfare and natural behaviour,” she said.
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said they welcomed all organisations “that seek to advance the well-being of animals and the improvement of [the East London] zoo”.
Ngwenya said progress “is going very well” with regards to improving conditions at the zoo.
“The City has in the last two years put in place a Zoo Operational Plan to improve the operational standards of the zoo to a point where we can meet our national set standards through PAZA [sic][Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria].
“We are working closely with the environmental affairs department and all organisations whose mandate is to rightfully hold us accountable,” he said.
According to Ngwenya, the zoo is currently undergoing a process of transferring its vulture to a national facility since it does not thrive in a coastal forest biosphere.
He also disputed the claims that the zoo’s jaguar was mistreated, saying its enclosure is “not inadequate in terms of compromising its health” but also said the zoo has begun enlarging it.
The brown bear, another animal which has drawn public attention, is “of adequate size and standard and for their old age, they are in good health,” said Ngwenya.