Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Big plans for Hope Zoo

Published:Monday | July 3, 2017 | 7:00 AMLynford Simpson

Children visiting Hope Zoo in St Andrew could soon benefit from an added feature - a specialised, all-inclusive playground built to international standards that is disabled friendly.

General manager at the zoo, Rebecca Harper, told The Gleaner that the design works for the park, which can accommodate roughly 200 children, have been completed. She said once the funding is in place, construction is expected to last three to six months.

"All we are waiting on now is the money," Harper said, while explaining that the playground and its specialised features will cost between $10 million and $12 million.

Harper explained that "it's a playground that any child of any age can play in, even those with a disability".

The playground will have equipment that will allow wheelchair-assisted children and those with cerebral palsey and other illnesses to enjoy themselves alongside their able-bodied colleagues. "It's another feature of the zoo that we intend to add in the near future," said Harper.

The general manager has travelled to Alabama in the United States to view first-hand a similar playground and to examine its positive effects on disabled children. While she moves to source the funding for the playground, Harper disclosed that there are efforts being made to bring in more exotic animals such as giraffes.

As part of the ongoing development at the zoo, a curator has also been brought in from South Africa. Approximately $1 million is needed to bring in an animal trainer as the operators of the zoo attempt to bring the lion and lioness together. Currently, they are in separate enclosures next to each other.

Harper explained that the person tapped to bring the animals together is the same person who donated them to the zoo. She explained that it was a delicate process best undertaken by a person already known to the lions.

"You cannot force two lions together - one could kill the other for territory. Safety measures have to be put in place, including being able to tranquilise if things go wrong," she said. "The last thing we want to do is lose one of them because it costs US$60,000 to bring one in and that's if we get the lion for free."