'This is the only zoological garden we have in the country. It is an essential component of wildlife conservation, and geared towards sustainable education, research works, recreation and tourism for Ghanaians and foreigners, so if we lose it, where will our students and children learn about the animals they see in books and watch on television screens?
'Losing the Kumasi Zoological Garden will also have adverse effect on national economic development. This is because it is a good source of revenue to support the socio-economic development of the nation.'
These were the sentiments expressed by Mr Stephen Tamanja, Manager of the Kumasi Zoological Garden, when the Daily Graphic contacted him to react to public agitations that the garden should be rezoned and converted into a business centre.
Mr Tamanja noted that 'besides being an avenue for safe-keeping of engendered animal species, its economic viability cannot be overemphasised. This is because between 2006 and 2012, the Kumasi Zoological Gardens generated a total of GH¢519,512.22 to support the growth of the national economy.
' The Kumasi Zoological garden also generated a total of GH¢65, 648.00 between January and June, 2013, so the indication is that in terms of revenue generation, the zoo is playing a useful role.'
According to him, in 2008, revenue generation from local and foreign tourists who visited the Kumasi Zoological garden increased to GH¢47, 862.65, and the following year, it further increased to GH¢79, 126.20, before jumping to GH¢110, 746.50 in 2010.
He said 2011 saw revenue generation at the garden increasing again to GH¢111,312.50, and last year, a total of GH¢122, 032.08 was realised as revenue.
'Between January and June, this year, we have generated a total of GH¢65,643, and the expectation is that by the end of the year, we will be able to generate much more than what we generated last year,' he assured.
Agitations for renaming
Prior to Daily Graphic interactions with Mr Tamanja, a section of the business community in Kumasi had clamoured for the use of the area as a business centre.
To them, 'the zoological garden has now merged into both the main Central Business District (CBD) at Adum and the Kejetia lorry terminal, which is fast growing to become a viable business centre.
'The business community in the Kumasi metropolis is also increasing in numbers, but space to promote our businesses is shrinking in size and shape, so the garden offers a suitable space to do business.
'The zoological garden has now outlived its usefulness, so the city authorities should find space on the outskirts of Kumasi to open a new one to display their animals.
'This will offer us the opportunity to use the land for the construction of shopping malls to expand our businesses and enhance revenue generation,' their spokesman, who identified himself as Mr Opoku Menkah, argued.
History of the Kumasi Zoological Garden
Located at an area considered to be the source of the Subin river, and sharing boundaries with Mbrom to the east, the cultural centre to the west, the Kejetia lorry terminal to the north and the race course area to the south, the Kumasi Zoological garden was formally opened to the public on October 11 1958, by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana.
It was the first Director of the Centre for National Culture (CNC) in Kumasi, the late Dr A.A. Kyeremanteng, whose desire of preserving the cultural values, traditions and customs of the Ashantis at the CNC, culminated in the setting up of a zoo close to it.
The garden, which covers an estimated land mass of 11 hectares, is also a member of the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, the Kumasi Zoological garden has animals which include: olive baboons, red-flanker duikers, camels, elephant, hyenas, lions, chimpanzees, ostriches, royal pythons, black cobras, porcupines, crocodiles, eagles, vipers, giant tortoises and turtles.
Dismissing the agitations for the Kumasi Zoological Garden to be rezoned because it had merged into the commercial district of Kumasi, Mr Tamanja said its present location was part of the greater Kumasi plan.
Challenges affecting smooth operations
Notwithstanding its contributions to sustainable national development, the Kumasi Zoological garden has not experienced any major facelift to make it more attractive to the public.
When the Daily Graphic visited the Zoo as part of a fact- finding mission, it became clear that besides erosion at parts of the gardens, activities of hawkers were also undermining the operations of the zoo.
In his briefings, Mr Tamanja said due to its location as a low- lying area, 'inflows of sewage from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), the race course area and Mbrom have been causing erosion and affecting the otherwise serene environment'.
By George Ernest Asare/Daily Graphic/Ghana