Sunday observer Extra
Zoo to be on par with the best
Orangutan - Mother Aki with baby Sakeefo
White Bengal Tiger
In the late 1920s there was a menagerie set up in Dehiwela by a
German named John Hagenbeck, a member of a famous show-business family
from Hamburg. Acquired by the Government in 1936 and following many a
transformation over the years, today it is fondly known as the Dehiwela
The National Zoological Gardens (Dehiwela Zoo) plays a great role in
ex-situ conservation of local and international fauna. Located on a
beautiful landscaped 22-acre plot, it is just 11 kilometres away from
the heart of Colombo city.
In 1936, the Zoo was under the purview of the Government Agent of
Colombo. Today it is managed by the Department of National Zoological
Gardens of the Economic Development Ministry.
The Zoological Gardens has over 350 species of wild animals, birds,
reptiles and various kinds of fish. There are about 100 species of
mammals, 110 species of birds, 65 species of ornamental fish, 35 species
of dangerous and harmless reptiles and amphibians with over 2,500
varieties of birds such as water birds, pelicans and aquatic birds at
Equipped with a five year plan the zoo is transforming into a more
beautiful, state-of-the-art conservation centre with many short and
long-term measures in the pipeline.
“Under the instructions of Economic Development Minister Basil
Rajapaksa we are developing the infrastructure of the zoo, specially
expanding the space for the animals,” said Director of the National
Zoological Gardens and Director General Economic Development Ministry
Underground water tank
Many of the infrastructure development programs initiated last year
are almost completed. A mammoth size underground water tank with a
capacity of 30,000 gallons is built on the premises providing safe and
clean drinking water for visitors as well as the animals.
According to Gunarathne the animals are essentially given clean
drinking water purified by the Water Board.
A baby hipo with its mother
The swan pond, near the entrance which faced a disaster in the recent
heavy showers is completely repaired with a permanent solution in place
to avoid such damages. According to the engineers, the swan lake is on
loose ground, so to strengthen the location an underground structure was
built with metal rods attached to the bed rock.
The complicated construction is completed and zoo authorities are
concerned on making the place more scenic.
The reptilium will get a facelift soon. Since the present one has
less space it is going to be expanded into a three storied building.
Initially it was decided to have a two storied building, but following
the appointment of the new Director - Gunarathne it was decided to plan
for three levels so that the residents, the reptiles would have more
space to crawl!
The Nursery is under construction with an estimated cost of Rs. 31.9
million. The place for the babies of the zoo will be expanded to a three
storied building, Gunarathne said.
Most importantly, the zoo is renovating four main roads for visitors
especially for the differently abled. The roads will be built following
international standards to suit the needs of the differently abled.
Many factors are considered in construction, such as the slope of the
For the benefit of the visitors two new refreshment blocks are under
way. The complexes will include toilets, bathrooms and changing areas
especially catering to parents with infants and toddlers. One block will
be totally for foreigners and another, a bit larger for locals.
The first will cost Rs. 14.7 million and the other is estimated at
Rs. 12 million. The restaurant and the welfare centres catering to
visitors will also be renovated at a cost of over Rs. 30 million.
Abhaya - the new arrival to the zoo
As an initial step in expanding the animal living areas the Rhino
area will be renovated with more space. “We need to give more space for
the animals to live in more natural surroundings, letting them behave
naturally as much as possible,” a zoo official said. In addition, a plan
for an elephant free living area is also under way and will be finalised
“We are concerned not only about one species but of upgrading the
entire zoo and upgrading its services to international standards,”
“The staff is very dedicated and caring but that itself seems to be
not enough when considering certain post-mortems done on several animals
a few months back.”
“We need the public who visit the zoo to show kindness and love to
these innocent creatures. This unfortunately does not happen at times,”
According to him some people throw coins, blades and such harmful
items to the animals which the beasts swallow. It is a very tragic
situation. zoo authorities are making extra effort to educate and make
people aware of the negative impacts of such inhumane actions. “Adding
more to the list is of course the menace of visitors littering the
grounds and feeding the animals.
Visitors feeding animals is a grave issue as most species have
recommended diets. So please don’t give your snack bar as it’s an
offence resulting in a penalty under law”, he concluded.