Central zoo comes up with new guidelines preparing to reopenAuthorities await nod from the government to start welcoming visitors by following health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
It has been months since the lone zoo in the country closed its doors to visitors due to the Covid-19 crisis. The zoo, which suffered heavy losses in revenue, struggled to feed its animals and pay its staffers, is finally gearing up to reopen for the public.
The Central Zoo, located in Jawalakhel, has prepared standard operating procedures to welcome visitors again.
“Standard operating procedures have been prepared along the lines of the government standards and safety protocols which had to be followed even after the lockdown was called off,” Chiranjibi Pokharel, chief of the zoo, told the Post. “We have made arrangements so that visitors can remain safe during their visit to the zoo.”
The zoo was shut down from March 18 after the government barred gatherings of more than 25 persons on March 18 over Covid-19 concerns.
As per the new guidelines, visitors must wear face masks, sanitise themselves and maintain distance with each other. “There will be a time limit for visitors inside the zoo. Unlike the pre-pandemic days, they will not be allowed to sit inside the zoo for a long time, walk around and eat. They will be given around one to one and a half hours to spend on the zoo premises,” said Pokharel. “There will also be different gates for entering and leaving the zoo.”
However, the highlight of the guidelines is the restrictions on the number of visitors allowed everyday. Only 800 visitors will be allowed inside the zoo at any point in time, according to Pokharel.
On average, the central zoo welcomes around 3,000 visitors everyday. The number goes up on public holidays. “On one Bhote Jatra day, nearly 37,000 visitors came to the zoo,” said Pokharel.
The months of closure has emerged as a challenge the sustainability of the country’s lone zoo, which has been surviving solely on revenue generated from ticket sales.
With the number of visitors roughly standing at around one million annually, the zoo used to earn around Rs150 million, which was spent on feeding and treating animals, paying staff salaries and conducting maintenance works.
The zoo authority has also requested the government for financial support. In October, Lalitpur Metropolitan City had handed over financial assistance of Rs 1 million to the zoo, currently being managed by the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
Spread over six hectares of land, the zoo is home to over 125 species.
The zoo authority, which has made all preparations to welcome tourists, said it is now waiting for the government’s nod to reopen the zoo.
“We have submitted plans and guidelines to the Ministry of Forest and Environment, the Cabinet and the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre,” said Pokharel. “We don’t know when our proposal will be accepted.”
Even though the lockdown was lifted on July 21, people were not allowed to gather in large numbers. As a result, the central zoo remained on the list of services and facilities that could not be opened for visitors. Likewise, prohibitory orders imposed by district administrators of the Kathmandu Valley also barred public movement, and outdoor recreational facilities like the zoo are still on the list of those services which must remain closed.
Prakash Lamsal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, said the ministry is preparing to re-open the zoo soon. “The Central Zoo has prepared its safety standards,” Lamsal told the Post. “Once the standard is approved by the ministry, the zoo will be once again open for the public.”