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Facelift for Dehiwala Zoo

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Author Topic: Facelift for Dehiwala Zoo  (Read 436 times)
indunil
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« on: October 18, 2010, 04:00:51 am »


Tricks played by monkeys, chimpanzees, giraffes, sea lions and the elephant dance are the scenes that most visitors enjoy at the Dehiwala Zoo.

Dehiwela Zoo which is over 80 years old has nearly 350 species of animals, birds and reptiles. Many foreign visitors say that the Dehiwala Zoo could be compared to world famous zoological gardens in Singapore, America, Japan, India, Korea, England and South Africa.

Set up in 1926 by a German, John Hagenbeck, the Dehiwala Zoo now completes 80 years. It is said that many zoo parks in the world have a history of less than this period.

A businessman John Hagenbeck had come to Ceylon during 1920s not with the objective of starting a zoological garden, but with a long experience of taming wild animals. John had the idea of buying a

five-acre land at Dehiwala which was an undeveloped area at that time. He felt the rural environment with shrub jungles and water resources in the area was ideal for animals.

He caged several local wild animals such as elephants, leopards, monkeys, donkeys, apes and even dogs in his five-acre plot. He tamed some of the animals and hired them for performances at circus shows.

John earned little money and later expanded the land area up to 10 acres.

The then colonial Government paid a special interest towards the development of the Hagenbeck's Zoo at Dehiwala and acquired it in July 1936.

The present Zoological Gardens which is constructed on a 22-acre plot has over 350 species of wild animals, birds, reptiles and various kinds of fish.

There are about 100 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 65 species of ornamental fish, 35 species of dangerous and harmless reptiles and amphibious at the Zoo. The garden has over 2,500 varieties of birds such as water birds, pelicans and aquatic birds.

Of seven elephants the Zoo owns, one is imported from Africa.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, National Zoological Gardens, Deputy Director, Dhammika Malsinghe said that the Dehiwala Zoological Garden will be further expanded with more new additions under the Department's five-year plan which will commence shortly.

She said in addition, the Department has already undertaken the construction of two zoological gardens, the Pinnawala Zoo at Wegolla which is close to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the `Safari Park' at Ridiyagama in Hambantota.

"The Wegolla Zoo is constructed on a 200-acre land which has all the natural resources for wild animals, reptiles and birds,".

Thick jungles, water resources, huge trees, unending creepers and streams with pure water at the Wegolla Park provides a better environment for animals.

"The construction work of the Wegolla Zoo is nearing completion and expects to open it in November this year".

The `Safari Park' is constructed on a 500-acre land and it will be opened for public before the end of next year.

She said visitors could see both local animals, birds, reptiles and also imported ones at the Safari Park and arrangements will be made for visitors to travel by vehicles inside the park.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has 87 elephants and baby elephants and according to the Zoological Department, the arrival of foreign visitors at Pinnawala is higher than at the Dehiwala Zoo.

The Zoological Garden Management also maintains a 16-acre fruit and vegetable cultivation land at Gonapola which is twelve km away from Dehiwala. It provides sufficient food for animals and sometimes they are purchased from outside places.

However, a sum of Rs. 150,000 is spent on animal foods, including for meet, eggs and fish a day.

Asked about the daily income at the zoo, the Deputy Director said the income depends on the number of visitors and also schoolchildren during vacations.

She said about 4,500 people visit the zoo daily and the number exceeds 8,000 during weekends and school vacations and accordingly the income ranges between Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 1,200,000 a day.

"Charges for visitors are very reasonable, since children coming from Government sponsored orphanages and disabled soldiers could enter the garden without making a payment".

Meanwhile Rs. 100 is charged from adults and Rs. 30 from children. Schoolchildren and university students coming in groups are charged Rs. 20 each, while foreign visitors are also charged in a very reasonable way according to existing Department regulations.

Asked about the animal imports, she said strict laws and new guidelines have been implemented by many countries such as South Africa when exporting animals.

Accordingly such countries do not allow to export captured animals other than breeding them.

At present we are waiting for some aquatic animals, Kangaroos and Giraffe from Germany, sea lions from Japan.

However, during the recent past we imported pairs of pandas, gorillas, lions, kangaroos, white tigers from China and ring tail loris (Similar to local Unahapuluwa) from a United Kingdom Zoo, squirrel monkeys and speurthighied tortoise from Pakistan.

According to Zoo authorities few years ago Sri Lanka received a couple of black rhinoceros from Nagoya Zoo, Japan as a token of appreciation for gifting two elephants from Sri Lanka.

In addition, people from various parts of the country very often inform the Dehiwala Zoo about rare animals, reptiles and birds roaming in their villages.

She said three white cobras (Albino Cobras) were captured on information provided by a resident from Piliyandala area recently.

The zoological garden authorities has called upon the public to inform the zoo about rare animals found in their areas without harming them as a special team has been deployed to respond to such informations.

They also request visitors coming to Zoo to refrain from using polythene and also from feeding animals as it could lead to develop various diseases.

She said the animals are taken care of by health authorities and the staffers working in the garden.

Deputy Director Malsinghe also thanked Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Deputy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Economy Development Ministry Director General C. Pathiraja for their invaluable service rendered towards the development of the Dehiwala Zoo and also to carry out development activities at the Wegolla Zoo and the `Safari Park' in Hambantota.

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