When Ravee Tandukar conducted a Zoo Check of the enclosures of endangered mammals at the Central Zoo for his thesis in Development Studies, he found that the conditions generally had improved. However, three enclosures, namely that of Asian Elephant, One-Horned Rhinoceros, and Striped Hyena, failed. “Immediate improvements of the failed enclosures and translocation of the larger mammals to the planned new ‘Open Zoo’are urgent matters to be addressed,” says the researcher.
The study aimed to understand the welfare status of endangered terrestrial mammals housed at Central Zoo adapting the Zoo Exhibit Quick Audit Process (ZEQAP) designed by Dr. Rob Laidlaw.
In his recommendations, Ravee Tandukar appeals with the authorities to develop zoo legislation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. “This will set basic welfare standards and enable the Central Zoo to become an integral part of the national budget. Such a policy will ensure the zoo’s sustainability and introduce good practices for management, staff and visitors,” according to the researcher.
With the zoo management facing problems to house a relatively high number of wild animals, expansion of the zoo is needed, says Tandukar. “Exhibiting more animals by ignoring the zoo’s carrying capacity greatly compromises the welfare conditions. The promised establishment of an open, modern zoo at another section of Central Zoo at Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur is the only solution to the growth and development of the zoo. By doing so, the present location at Jawalakhel can become a major location for small companion, farm animals and deer species.”
Overall, the zoo management needs to increase its transparency and welcome support, especially from national experts and welfare organizations, argues the researcher. ” The zoo management needs to improve its response to criticism and suggestions, as this will benefit the functioning of the zoo in the long run. Comprehensive standards should be developed and implemented covering all aspects of acceptable captive wildlife management, in particular to animal housing, husbandry, public safety and awareness.”
Some endangered mammals such as One-horned Rhinoceros and Wild Water Buffalo should be provided with an opportunity to remove themselves from the view of visitors and, if necessary, their cage mates. Visual barriers made up of durable materials, large rocks, trees and vegetation, brush piles, small rock and mud piles are just a few of the materials that can be used as visual baffles to create privacy areas. Appropriate shelter for the Asian Elephant is in need of urgent attention, says Tandukar.
Central Zoo further needs to improve its response to natural and artificial disasters associated with the risks of extreme natural calamities, escape of wild animals, major mistakes of zoo staff, animal attacks and disseminating disease. Installation of CCTV might take the central zoo to the next level.
Education activities can be improved too, says the researcher. “Thousands of urban, rural, literate and illiterate people visit the zoo to be educated about the values and needs for conservation of wildlife. A detailed education plan will suggest strategies and methods to introduce and enhance interpretation opportunities including the use of signage, exhibits, enclosures and interpretation centers.”