We rise against relocation of Kano zoo and botanic garden

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We rise against relocation of Kano zoo and botanic garden

By Abubakar Ringim

Kano is among the ancient and most historic cities in
the entire African continent because of its strategic location, tradition, and
commercial opportunities. Historically, it served as a transition ground
between the people of the Sahara and vice versa, and created a multifaceted
relationship among the people of sub-Saharan Africa.
The state harbors important and popular heritages
including the Dala mountain, Gidan Bagauda, groundnut pyramid, Badala (ancient
wall), Gidan Makama (Kano museum), and Kano zoo, just to mention but a
few.
Among these, the Kano zoo and its botanical garden
stands out because of its critical importance in terms of education, research,
recreation, birdwatching, family outdoor, and cultural, and spiritual
enrichment. It is the only semi-natural place now available for the public to
connect with nature and biodiversity in the Kano metropolis.

The Kano zoo is one of the three oldest zoos in the
country, having the highest number of animal species. Moreover, it is the only
zoo registered with PAAZA (Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria) in
Nigeria. Additionally, the zoo serves as the base of the Kano Bird Club.

Most critically, the vegetation of the zoo serves as a
carbon sink (absorbs greenhouse gases) mitigating against global climate change
(since Kano is the most polluted city in Africa according to Air Quality Index
and data released by IQAir AirVisual and Greenpeace in 2019 and
2020, respectively). This is
one of the most serious environmental crisis affecting biodiversity, the
environment, and humanity.

As far as I am aware, there are two large blocks of
indigenous vegetation left in Kano metropolis, which provide habitat for urban
biodiversity. These are the Kano zoo and the Emirs palace, supporting trees and
animals dating back to the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Audu Bako, the first military governor of
Kano State, considered as the father of Kano’s green revolution, established
the Kano zoo in 1971. As a visionary and focused leader, he anticipated the
need to educate the public via the zoo facility as a major step to curtail
biodiversity loss; here I quote from his official speech during the official
commissioning of the Kano zoo in 1972.
“But my main objectives in establishing such a recreational facility are
first, to bring to our people different specimens of wildlife with particular
emphasis on animals which are not now available in this country, but which have
been exterminated by hunters as from 99 A.D. but in the year 1972 we are trying
to regenerate these animals that were long lost for our present and future
generations to see.

Secondly, a general collection of animals, birds, reptiles, fish, and
insects would give an overall picture of their classification into different
ecological areas.
Thirdly, to collect Nigerian animals that breed successfully in the
zoo, which can later be re-introduced into the game reserve
As someone who grew up less than a kilometer from the
zoo facility, I still recall the good memories of the appreciation and value of
the scenic environment, its plants, and animals, especially birds and
butterflies that are always conspicuous. Certainly, I can say, this childhood
experience, to a great extent, influenced what I do today, and to date, it is
my favorite place in Kano where I love to spend my time the most.

Although animals should live in the wild – and as a
strong advocate of biodiversity – the Kano zoo serves as an important ground
for teaching hundreds of Industrial Training (IT) students a year. These IT
students come from different fields of study ranging from Zoology, Botany,
Forestry, Wildlife Management, and so on from the three universities in Kano
and many others from Jigawa, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Katsina, and all over
Nigeria.

Besides, it is a critical place where young people
(the next generation of environmentalists and biodiversity conservationists)
are nurtured and groomed. These same young people will soon be saddled with the
responsibility of taking decisions on environmental issues, apart from
appreciating the value of natural gifts, plants, and animals. Available
information shows that the zoo supports hundreds of school pupils a week.

The current administration has consistently acted in a
way that shows that it does not care for the environment or its issues; it has
destroyed large green areas more than any other government in the history of
Kano State. It should be noted that some heritages are worth protecting due to
their contribution to environmental sustenance, education, social, and cultural
significance.

The people of Kano State should not forget the
cultural significance of the zoo during festivities such as Sallah and Christmas
holidays. Thus, they should stand to protect this heritage through advocacy and
awareness campaigns, and even petitions.

Elsewhere, governments have focused their attention on
educating the public on current environmental and conservation issues happening
at the global level. Why destroy the Kano zoo, a heritage laid down for nearly
half a century? Because of developments? In fact, the government should have
focused on other environmental issues in the state, such as unplanned
developmental activities, environmental pollution around Challawa, and logging
of forests.

At this time, vision and wisdom should guide current
and future conservation planning, while doing away with self-interest that
would have drastic environmental consequences on the Kano inhabitants. People
should not have to leave the cities or travel long distances to experience
nature, which probably informed its siting in the first instance. While it
would be a welcome idea to open a new zoo elsewhere, it is certainly not a good
thought to relocate this important facility within the Kano metropolis.
Zoological gardens like the Kano zoo, if managed to
international standards and practices, have the potentials to provide
opportunities for captive breeding of endangered species, and understanding
captive diseases of animals, critical for understanding emerging and
re-emerging human diseases linked to animals.

A very recent study we conducted on the breeding and
habitat ecology of wild heron populations in the zoo shows that the zoo holds
the strongest populations of these birds in the entire Kano metropolis.

Finally, the zoo raises awareness and campaigns about
plants and animals facing complete disappearance because of human activities.
It is also a veritable source of generating revenue. Hence, relocating it would
have short and long-term socio-economic consequences.

It is hoped that the government would critically look
into this issue and rethink the purported plan to relocate the zoo in the
interest of the Kano State people, especially students that majorly benefit
from it, the environment, and urban biodiversity. Generally, this should serve
as a message to other states in the country.

Abubakar S. Ringim, biodiversity conservationist, Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University
Dutse, Jigawa State,

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