The Abuja Park and Zoo has a well laid out infrastructure, but it is without wild cats, such as lions, tigers, which make other zoos attractive to fun seekers
A visit to the Abuja Park and Zoo gives an impression of how a standard park should look like; however, moving deeper into the zoo area, one meets few animals such as donkey, zebra, camel, goats - all farmiliar animals.
Located in the high Brow Asokoro District, near the Gowon Barracks and almost opposite the Presidential Villa fence, the security presence alone in the area would ordinarily encourage - discourage - families to want to troop there for leisure. However, the decreasing number of animals in the zoo has become a source of concern for old time visitors to the place.
Weekly Trust learnt that the is no longer what it used to be some four to five years ago, which it was further learn, has led to lesser visitors to the zoo. Though, it has a serene environment, with different sections, good roads and pavements and so many other good facilities of international standard.
The park is divided in two sections where visitors can see different groups of animals and there are also assortment of games for children and adults. However, Weekly Trust observed that the animals have decreased in numbers as well as varieties.
Those that are remaining do not even look well-kept. For example, the only camel, which dwells with some goats, looks really old, weak and sickly to a point that makes its identity to be easily mistaken by children for something else.
No doubt, the Children's Park and Zoo has modern spacious enclosures for the animals and plenty of playgrounds for kids as well as a decent picnic ground, just close to some parts of the famous Aso Rock. However, the animal area has been more or less dormant in terms of activity.
Mr. Ezekiel Timothy, a civil servant who took his children to the park, said in spite of the well laid out infrastructure, the animals' area needs some attention.
"When I started coming here some five years ago, the place looked like some of these parks in countries that survive on tourism. The grasses looked well -kept, green, attractive and the animals in the zoo area were many and well fed," he said.
He, however, said he still likes the place and takes his children there mostly on weekends. "I enjoy playing there or having small family picnic. Their charges are very reasonable. I also prefer going there because there are military check points before getting there, thus; I appreciate the sense of security there."
His 10 and 12 year old children said they like using the children playground. especially the animal area to play with the Giraffe and Zebras.
Peter, his 10-year-old son said "I have been seeing the Giraffe since the first time my daddy brought us here. I know that it is not harmful."
Mr. Timothy said he still prefers the place to other leisure spots in Abuja despite the decreasing standard, especially in the zoo area.
"This is one of the most natural relaxation centers in Abuja. The others are just artificial spots, lacking the sight and scene of nature. Here you can hear the sound of the birds, view the grasses, the water, sometimes when you are walking deep inside you can even get scared, thinking that you are lost in a forest.
"It is amazing that this kind of place can be found in Abuja. I urged relevant authority in the FCT to step in by bringing more animals to enhance the beauty of the park to encourage visitors to the place.
Some foreigners were seen catching fun and enjoying the scenery. Chiin Huu, a Chinese said he often comes to the park to relax, take photographs and send them to his people in China.
"I love the place, it reminds me of my country, and I like the bush, the rock, though there are fewer animals. They should bring in more animals."
Aminu Mohammed, Director of Abuja Park and Zoo confirmed the dwindling number of wild animals in the park. He told Weekly Trust that the bane of the park and zoo is lack of finances. "We are facing a serious financial crunch. We are conscious of the fact that we need to upgrade our facilities. It is difficult to sustain wild animals without adequate funds. Some of the animals die, because there is no money to get new ones for them to reproduce and be sustained. If you continue with the same species, the same family, if they have any disease, would be wiped out.
"Just like humans, you cannot marry your sister, it is better to go outside and marry, then reproduce. It is also good for the animals to meet with others from other places to reproduce. It is better and sustains better, but when you keep re-cycling them, it becomes a problem. We don't have wild cats, we need a deer as well, but all these costs serious money to bring and keep.
"We need money to sustain ourselves in terms of salaries, feeding and maintaining the animals and facilities among others," he said. Though the park is owned by the government through a visitation committee, Weekly Trust learnt that subvention doesn't come to it.
"Animals like wild cats need good enclosures, good houses, where they would be safe for their own security and those of visitors coming to view them. We are just managing the park, if we have any suggestions we recommend to the committee overseeing our activities," he noted.