Recently yours truly had the distinction to be appointed to a small, high powered committee established by the Ghana Tourist Board on the recommendation of its new Executive Director. Our mandate is to look into tourism promotion in ASHANTI. Guess they know that the guy with the smallest establishment has the biggest voice, maybe because he has the least to lose. And I guess they know how passionately I feel about tourism development in reducing poverty by creating jobs-as well as giving people routine and meaning….
Our first outing was to the Kumasi Zoo. It is the only zoo in the country, the Accra Zoo having closed down a few years ago.
Now, not to pull any punches, if you have lived in a cage yourself all your life, then a visit to the Kumasi Zoo might be worthwhile. Now I am not saying going to the zoo is a bad idea. IT ISN’T! The Kumasi Zoo is Ghana in a nutshell. It has so much potential, but oh the work to be done. So, go but look at it in terms of a stalled underfunded development project in dire need of direction and effort. And ask, HOW CAN I HELP? Like write a letter to the largest daily in the country THE DAILY GRAPHIC-here’s the address firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not a question of money, just political will and political will comes when attention is drawn to a situation.
The zoo is located next to the cultural centre in the very heart of the city. The cultural centre is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the city and it actually shares a wall with the zoo. There is a vast area for parking just before the wall on the cultural centre wall. Visitors could easily walk from one to the other. In fact there could be an inner city walking tour-from cultural centre to zoo to Kejetia Lorry Park, the hub of the region ending up at Kumasi Central market, the pulsating heart of the region.
In fact the original conception was to have the main entrance there, instead of on the lorry park side which has little space for parking and is traffic congested. But Director of the Zoo said there had been a disagreement between authorities and the entrance was never put there despite the partial construction of a restaurant and a ticket house. Ugh, sorry to write it, this is so Ghanaian, no I should write human. But what is Ghanaian, is that this mini dispute must have taken place decades ago!. I first went to the Kumasi Zoo with our children in the early seventies and the entrance is where it is TODAY! The dispute was never resolved….
It’s an enormous piece of land. Looking at the picture below you’d never think that it is in the heart of this city of approximately 2 to 3 million souls. So much could be implemented for their benefit. There were plans for a children’s playground. But alas….
Now for the zoo. I’d venture to say that it has deteriorated over the years. The walkways, enclosures and cages are in need of refurbishment. But was was encouraging is the animals were active and looked well fed. But all too often we’d approach a cage/enclosure and it would be empty. While there are obvious priorities regarding infrastructure, like drainage and stagnant water, it’s the empty cages that is disturbing.
So much could be done…there is a plan for corporate adoption of animals to relieve the burden of feed and upkeep off the Ghana Wildlife Service, the governing body. Barclays Bank has adopted an eagle. Four Villages is thinking of adopting the camels sent to the Asantehene, Paramount Chief of the Akan People by Quadaffi of Libya. Now that would sure upset the head of the African Authority…..
All in all we had a wonderful time shaking our heads. So when you go, don’t look at the zoo as a zoo, look at it as a microcosm of a macrocosm, a little slice of Ghana that could be oh so right.
And the follow-up, The committee will try to get the stakeholders together with the express goal of relocating the entrance on the National Cultural Centre side which is far more TOURIST FRIENDLY! That involves collaboration, so I don’t hold much hope, but we’ll give it a try.
And there right in the middle of the zoo, a little notice that says it all…..not only destructive to other animals, but always to himself