Taiz Zoo: Animal sanctuary in need of attention [Archives:2007/1074/Health]

August 6 2007
Occasionally, zoo visitors reach to 10,000. This huge number makes the zoo an important tourist spot and a showcase for Yemens animal environment.
Occasionally, zoo visitors reach to 10,000. This huge number makes the zoo an important tourist spot and a showcase for Yemens animal environment.
Nassri Al-Saqqaf
For Yemen Times

Taiz zoo is the first zoo established to save wild animals threatened by extinction in Yemen. It was established and opened in 1998, funded by the Cleaning and Improvement Fund in Taiz City.

The zoo passed through two phases during its erection. Prerequisite studies for carrying out the third phase are currently being conducted. The third phase involves expanding overcrowded with animals.

A significant number of visitors venture to the zoo to view the animals threatened with extinction. According to the zoo's deputy manger there are about 400 to 1,000 visitors daily. Occasionally, zoo visitors reach to 10,000. This huge number makes the zoo an important tourist spot and a showcase for Yemen's animal environment.

The deputy manager of Taiz Zoo stated that the purpose of the zoo is to protect animals threatened with extinction, particularly Yemeni animals such as tigers, wild cats, wolves and falcons. The zoo works to increase the number of these animals.

There are also simple programs and environmental guidance about existing animals in the zoo.

The zookeepers take care of roughly 50 species of animals as well as birds, most of them indigenous. As these animals are threatened to vanish in wild life, there are some attempts to increase them in the zoo. “However, some animals are not being increased due to the high costs of their sheltering. It is because they make extra burden on the zoo budget that suffers from a continuous shortage. It is for the first time that the specialists succeeded in increasing the number of tigers to reach to 23 tigers,” the zoo's deputy manger Jamal Ghlab stated.

Mohammed Al-Shawafi, head of the zoo's veterinary care, stated, “We have got three tigers as gifts presented by the president. We also bought three others from the tradesmen. The process of increasing tigers was very difficult however we failed three times to protect the [newborns] because their mothers eat them immediately after delivery. We took the [newborns] away and used female dogs to give them milk. This method was a new precedent because the tiger's [young] do not accept the artificial sucking.”

However, the zoo worked on decreasing the number of lions because they add extra burden upon the zoo budget.

The deputy manager of the zoo confirmed that the inadequate budget causes an obstacle if the zoo receives more animals that need continuous care and attention. It takes more than 7 million Yemeni riyals per month, whereas the zoo budget does not exceed a third of this amount. Subsequently the Cleaning and Improvement Fund bear the other two thirds, including operation expenses and keepers' salaries. The paucity of the budget stands as a stumbling bloc to improving and developing the zoo, including erecting more facilities.

Despite financial problems, Al-Shawafi mentioned that the zoo is looking forward to expanding and opening facilities that meet the animals' natural environment. “The stables of the animals will be separated from each other by steel bars, allowing visitors to watch the animals. This project needs some kind of support from [outside] parties as well as organizations concerned with protecting the environment of the wild animals,” Al-Shawafi stated, adding, “Despite the large area of the zoo, it is not well exploited. There are unfenced areas and some of the stables of the animals are outside the zoo, making the protection process more difficult.”

He went on to say that the main center of the zoo consists of a circular construction that has a number of opened rooms. These rooms are fenced with steel bars and doors but most of them are mainly for the tigers and lions only. One room is for the African cheetah and three other rooms are for administration offices as well as the veterinary clinic. The other animals are put in cages and stables outside the zoo. Al-Shawafi hoped that the concerned authorities could establish a center in order to utilize the existing animals in the field of scientific research.

“The zoo is lacking the basic services. The network of the water is not connected as well as the landline phones needed for administrative work. The zoo needs a veterinarian specialized in wild veterinary medicine. The zookeepers need more training in the field of care and attention of animals,” Al-Shawafi asserted.

Ahmed Al-Qadasi, the zoo veterinarian, stated that there are several tasks of the veterinary clinic in the zoo. “The clinic takes care of sick animals. It also conducts preventive care for the animals throughout necessary vaccines. The sick animals should undergo surgery assistance when giving birth whether normally or through cesarean section. The clinic should also carry out regular tests for all animals to make sure if there are contagious diseases or parasites,” Al-Qadasi explained, adding, “The zoo administration provides the necessary requirements according to my orders. The administration informs the concerned parties.”

The zoo provides sick animals with medication from Jordon, Egypt, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Although many animals have died inside the zoo, Al-Qadasi assured that the zoo environment is suitable for all Yemeni animals. “The most suitable areas in Yemen are Taiz governorate and the middle areas of Yemen. In case if there are animals that need special care, we put them in a suitable place, allotting two zoo-keepers to watch them and to inform the specialist with updated things that happen to such animals,” Al-Qadasi explained.

He added that the zoo is still in its first phases but full of animals. To quarantine is to put animals in a place set up for receiving new animals. “The quarantine needs to be clean and disinfected to be a permanent place for animals. These animals take preventive vaccines and are tested in case there are symptoms. This is one of the problems faced by the zoo. We hope that they will erect a quarantine in the future.”

Al-Qadasi aspires to make Taiz Zoo the best at the level of Arab region and worldwide. “I personally seek to establish a special center separated from the animals show place in order to increase the number of the rare and dying animals particularly the Arabic tiger. We aspire to make the zoo have a spectrum of animals as well as new species spanning the world so as to be a teaching and tourist zoo, attracting tourists from all over the world,” he concluded.