THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 has started its investigation into the alleged mismanagement of the Cebu City Zoo.

Rainier Manlegro, DENR 7 Enforcement Division zoology technician, told Sun.Star Cebu that they’ve initially found out that various animals kept there have already died.

They inspected the zoo to determine if the zoo did not violate their certificate of wildlife registration.

Manlegro and fellow inspectors found out that some of the animals, such as a hornbill, a brahminy kite or “banog” and a reticulated python kept there have died.

Manlegro said that he and other inspectors from DENR 7 were baffled as to how the reticulated python died when it could have lived for two months without being fed.

They also discovered that there was still food left for the animals that were kept at the zoo.

Manlegre said officials of the DENR 7 Enforcement Division are planning to meet with City officials in a technical conference within this week to discuss on their findings.

They also plan to ask for copies of the necropsy report to determine the animals’ cause of death.

Manlegre said that if there’s evidence that the City mishandled the animals kept at the zoo, city officials could face sanctions for violating Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

This, as the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) is not objecting to the plan of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to convert the Compaña Maritima into an aviary.

It will house the birds from the Cebu City Zoo, which the mayor intends to close soon because the facility has become a “haven of corruption.”

Courtesy call

CPA General Manager Edmund Tan yesterday went to City Hall to pay a courtesy call to Osmeña after the latter announced that he no longer wants the City Government to pursue its ownership claim of the property where the Compaña Maritima stands.

“We are amenable to that (conversion of Maritima to aviary). That’s why I went to see him to assure him that we will also cooperate with them whatever is for the good of the place and the people in Cebu and the Visayas. We have no objections to that. We will abide,” he said.

According to Tan, he is already talking to someone who is willing to finance the aviary. He begged off from disclosing more details about the matter until he will be able to talk to the person.

Asked if CPA has plans in the area where Compaña Maritima stands, Tan said there are initial talks to build a custom building within the property.

“But we will discuss that with customs. Initial discussions pa lang,” he said.

Osmeña said he is ready to sit down with CPA for his plans for the Compaña Maritima. He said CPA will probably get a share from the revenues that will be generated once the aviary will become functional.

“I think it would be in the best interest of everybody...But the most important thing is there are collateral benefits. The Cebuanos will really enjoy, give us something proud to showcase. Second, it will help revive the downtown area by putting more pedestrian traffic,” he said.

Osmeña said the City won’t be spending for the aviary. But the City may have to shell out some money for the concreting of the parking area at the Compaña Maritima.

He said there is already a Singaporean who is currently building a hotel in the city, who is interested in putting up the aviary.

Donated

Asked what will happen to the other animals in the zoo, Osmeña said it will be donated to the Municipality of Amlan, whose officials he met Monday afternoon.

He said they already have a zoo there that they want to expand.

“I also told them to meet with the members of the City Council and to convince them because the council is not mine. If they can convince the council, I will push through with it,” he said.

During his news conference yesterday, Osmeña reiterated his plan to close down the zoo because of corruption allegedly happening inside the facility, a matter that was explained by Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries chief Dr. Alice Utlang.

Utlang questioned why there are some animals there that are owned by private individuals. She wants to know if it’s covered by a memorandum of understanding.

“Why would the government allow privately-owned animals there that are being fed by the City? Unfair na to the government,” she said.

She also asked about the income generated from the zoo and if the amount remitted to the City Treasurer’s Office includes the revenues from the snake massage.

Three pythons that are used for snake massage are personally owned by then zoo administrator Giovanni Romarate.

Since Romarate’s services was terminated by the present administration, Utlang said he took with him the pythons.

Utlang also questioned why claims are going around that the animals at the zoo are not eating when the budget for this year for food alone is at P3.1 million.

She said the zoo management did not process the purchase request for food as records of the City Budget Office showed that out of the P3.1 million, only P480,000 has been used.

There was a purchase request previously sent to the bids and awards committee for food for the zoo but it was returned because the price for the bananas supposedly for the monkeys is at P15 each.

On top of these, Utlang said the zoo only needs at least five caretakers, but the previous administration hired more than 20 people there.

Osmeña said the family of Romarate used to live inside the zoo.

“This is a breeding ground for wasting the money of the City. Basically it’s politics...At the zoo, the real motive there is corruption...I will not tolerate this kind of monkey business,” he said

Romarate, though, said there are no illegal activities going inside the zoo.

On the purchase of food, he said they don’t have anything to do with it as it is being handled by the bids and awards committee.

As for the income from the facility, Romarate said they don’t collect fees for the snake massage. What they are collecting is only the entrance fee to the zoo.

He also denied that his family is sleeping inside the zoo, although he sometimes sleeps there as there are many incidents in the past that the facility has been robbed despite the presence of a security guard.

As for the workers there, Romarate said the 20 caretakers were hired because of their passion for the animals.

Wa man niy politika amoa. In fact, naay usa diha sa una nga tua sa pikas pero gipadayon kay maayo man motrabaho (One worker belongs to a rival party but he stays because he works well),” he said.

Romarate said they are only raising these issues now at the height of their plan to close down the zoo.