THE EDITOR: The recent untimely death of one of the newly acquired kangaroos at the Emperor Valley Zoo has sparked numerous debates on the relocation of the zoo from the capital to a more rural area away from fireworks.
Ignoring the logistics of uprooting hundreds of animals in their long-established home for a 30-minute portable fireworks display once or twice a year, the benefits of a city zoo are quite substantial.
Our city zoo offers a clean, safe, family-friendly and wheelchair accessible recreational space within Port of Spain. This green space allows us to be immersed and brought closer to wildlife without leaving the urban area.
Botanical gardens are also often coupled with zoos internationally, as is the same with our zoo and the Royal Botanical Gardens right next door. Most families and almost all school outings combine a visit to both for a richer experience.
Our city zoo also serves the travelling public â” a great number of visitors use public transportation to get to the zoo. With many transportation options to and within Port of Spain, getting to the zoo is easy and affordable at its current location. For those with their own vehicles, the roads in and out of Port of Spain are easy to drive on and are maintained for what is expected of our nationâs capital.
Iâve read many arguments on local social media that zoos do not belong in the city. This is the opposite to what is practised worldwide. In the US alone there are over 2,400 zoos spanning multiple cities.
I have been fortunate to visit a few zoos located right in the heart of cities bigger than our own Port of Spain â” Central Park Zoo in New York City, Smithsonianâs National Zoo in Washington DC, and the Philadelphia Zoo. These zoos are nestled between bustling metropolitan streets and still manage to successfully serve their wildlife conservation, educational and recreational purposes.
It is also normal and expected for city zoos to have a smaller footprint. This is addressed by housing appropriately sized animals and good design of exhibits to ensure maximum utilisation of available space. The zoos listed prior were comfortably explored within half day while still providing my family with an enriching experience â” much like a visit to our own Emperor Valley Zoo.
Our zoo is constantly evolving to provide a richer experience for citizens. As a frequent zoo visitor since my school days to now, my childrenâs school days, the cultural and economic value that our zoo adds to Port of Spain cannot be ignored.
If we were to look past all these benefits and improvement efforts for a noisy fireworks display, we leave no choice but to shamefully add this to “the latest episode of Trinidad is not a real place.”
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