By Ikechukwu Iweajunwa
Owerri – The Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Parks (NAZAP) has commended Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers for approving N472 million for the renovation of the abandoned Port Harcourt Zoo.
The association made the commendation in a letter dated September 10 and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Owerri on Sunday.
The letter, which was addressed to the governor, was jointly signed by the association’s National President, Mr Francis Abioye, Secretary, Mr Sakiru Raji, and Public Relations Officer, Vitalis Ortese.
The group, however, urged the governor to ensure that the project was executed in line with the extant local and international laws guiding the operations of zoological facilities.
It expressed concern that the state government’s gesture might violate international standard and compromise professionalism during the project execution.
The association therefore urged the governor to consult wildlife experts and ensure that the group was carried along during the project implementation.
It maintained that the establishment and operations of zoological gardens and wildlife parks are regulated by existing local and international laws.
It hinted of a “likely violation of conventional principles, if the project was not handled by experts.”
According to the group, such a violation may attract both local and international sanctions from regulatory bodies during accreditation.
It argued that it would be counterproductive, if experts in conservation were not engaged in the project implementation.
It further urged the Bureau for Public Procurement and Intelligence in Rivers to ensure that the project was carried out by experienced conservation experts.
The letter read in part: “The association seeks to properly guide the governor on the dangers of carrying out the upgrade of a zoo in the 21st century without well profiled and experienced experts.
“It could expose members of the public, tourists and zoo staff to serious hazards.
“As a professional body, it is our mandate to institutionalise standards and enforce acceptable best practice among the operators of zoos and wildlife parks and monitor the facilities in order to provide professional guidance to government.
“The governor must know that there are guidelines enshrined by Federal Ministry of Environment with active involvement of NAZAP.
“We, therefore, urge you sir to ensure that registered and reputable experts are consulted in the proposed zoo renovation.”