Peta asks City: Work on zoo

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Sunday, May 18, 2014


CEBU CITY -- Your crocodiles need more space and protection from extreme temperatures. Your snakes need room to stretch. And your monkeys need a larger pen to play in.

These are among the recommendations the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent the Cebu City Government, after checking on the animals housed in the Cebu City Zoo.

PETA Asia Vice President of International Operations Jason Baker said that an inspector from their organization visited the zoo in Barangay Kalunasan and observed that many of the animals are being housed in “severely inadequate cages.”

Snake massage at Cebu City Zoo
ROOM TO STRETCH AND SLITHER. Valentino Ontong (left) of the Cebu City Zoo assists a visitor during a snake massage, one of the zoo’s attractions. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking the City to treat its snakes and other animals better; the snakes, they say, need larger enclosures so they can stretch, with large rocks where they can cool down. (Amper Campana)


Baker, in a letter to Mayor Michael Rama, said the cages urgently need an upgrade because these lack space.

Zoo Manager Giovanni Romarate told Sun.Star Cebu, during a visit to the zoo on Friday, that it is “premature” for PETA to say that the zoo doesn’t have enough space to accommodate all the animal’s cages because they are not yet finished with the rehabilitation and renovation of the facility.

The project, which started last month, costs P10 million. It will include the improvement of the animals’ cages as well as the creation of a botanical garden, a plant nursery, and a fence for the whole property.

The crocodiles, Baker said, are not free to move because their cage is undersized. Also, it lacks water.

“Without water deep enough to swim and float in, crocodiles are not able to thermoregulate (or maintain the body’s temperature). Please note that the inability to thermoregulate contributed to Lolong’s death,” he said.

Lolong was the world’s largest crocodile in captivity but died in February last year in its pen in Bunawan, Agusan del Norte.

Baker said the land where the Cebu City zoo currently sits does not have ample space to accommodate the enclosures for all the animals.

The zoo is a 7.6-hectare facility and has 23 species or over 100 animals.

At present, Romarate said, some animals, including the crocodiles and monkeys, are placed in small cages because these have to take vitamins and medicines.

Stressed

“Kung imo silang ibutang sa dako nga lugar, magginukdanay mo so mas stressful na nuon sa hayop (If we place them in a larger enclosure, they’ll run away from their handlers, which would be more stressful),” he said.

In his letter to the mayor, Baker attached PETA’s four-page recommendations to the City Government on how to improve the condition of the zoo animals.

Baker said they considered the City’s limited financial resources when they drafted the recommendations.

For their general recommendation, Baker said the City should adopt a policy prohibiting the breeding, buying, selling and trading of animals in order to better provide for them.

Romarate said, though, that they are neither trading nor selling animals. They are also not buying animals, although they had purchased some many years back.

As for the breeding, Romarate said it is something that they cannot avoid; sociable animals like birds and chickens breed.

‘Find more vets’

Also, Baker said the City should work with veterinary schools, both locally and internationally, that can bring vets to care for animals.

At present, the zoo is being overseen by the City’s Department of Veterinary Medicines and Fisheries.

As for their recommendations to improve the lives of the crocodiles, Baker said the City should make sure that their enclosures always have enough water, at least three feet deep, so they can swim and float.

Their enclosures should also be expanded to at least double the current size and should have dry resting areas. It should also have adequate shade over the dry rest areas since crocodiles need protection from extreme temperatures.

As for the monkeys, Baker said they need a larger pen so they can have room to exercise and play.

Their area should also have durable pools so they can cool themselves, as well as trees, shelves, ladders and swinging tires and ropes for exercise. However, their cage should be fenced in order to prevent human contact, since they bite.

More space

Male and female monkeys, he said, should be housed separately.

“We can offer advice on how to introduce monkeys to one another,” he said.

Also, Baker said that the chains and leashes around the monkey’s waist should be removed because these can get snagged on their cage and trap the animals.

For the snakes, Baker said their cages should be expanded so they will have enough room to stretch out to their full length.

“It is a misconception that snakes like to curl up. They need to be able to stretch out fully,” he said.

Their enclosures should also have trees, logs, branches, leaves, bark or dirt to encourage snakes to explore and move, as well as large stones they can use for hiding and cooling down.

Monthly income

He added that snakes should be housed separately as they do not get along well with each other.

PETA also submitted recommendations to improve the conditions of the rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, monitor lizard, turtles, fish and chickens at the zoo.

Romarate welcomed all the recommendations made by PETA. However, implementing these would require millions of funds.

The zoo’s monthly income, he said, would not suffice.

Every month, Romarate said, the zoo earns P60,000 to P80,000. The amount is only enough to pay for the water supply, electricity, food for the animals and salaries of the zoo personnel.

Their budget for 2014, which amounts to more than a million, is also not enough, he added.

Because of this, Romarate said he is asking for financial support not only from the City but from the private sector.

“I need support. Just help me and I will deliver better results,” he said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 19, 2014.

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