Nepal's only zoo at that time didn't have much to show for itself. The cages were small and smelly, the animals looked sick, and it was an example of how not to run a zoo. Today, Friends of Zoo (FOZ) is a showcase for conservation awareness in the country, helping promote a wildlife friendly culture among 300 member schools in the Valley and surrounding districts.
For an annual membership fee of Rs 200, Nepali students are offered free entrance to the Zoo, discounts at various stores in Kathmandu and can participate in taking care of the animals and feeding them. FOZ also conducts regular training for solid waste management, bird spotting, summer and winter camps, and night tours of the zoo.
"We want to connect the lessons students learn in their environment science classes with wildlife conservation and turn them into young animal enthusiasts," says Rachana Shah, conservation education officer at the Zoo.
The Zoo is currently collaborating with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the UK chapter of Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal (UKTNCN), and the recently launched Sustainable Education for Environment and Community (SEEC), which brings together groups involved in conservation education in Nepal.
"We started SEEC to form a common platform to share knowledge and expertise and also to stay connected with the larger conservation community," explains Amita Sen, a UKTNCN trustee (see box).
The British involvement with the Jawalakhel Zoo is a unique global partnership. In 2003 three British schools (Whitefield, King Alfred and Hendon) participated in a two-year joint project to promote the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recyle) at Kathmandu's Shuvatara, St Xavier's and Neptune schools. The six schools were awarded the global curriculum award by DFID and the British Council, which funded the project.
Students from the British schools visited Nepal and along with their Nepali counterparts, made an pledge as a part of the sustainable environment project, which was sealed in a time capsule in 2005. The capsule consisted of students' commitments as well as messages urging future leaders to work towards a cleaner environment.
The capsule was opened amidst a ceremony at St Xavier's School in Jawalakhel three weeks ago. Students were excited to see how many of them had fulfilled their promises from seven years ago. One of the pledges which was read aloud at the event said: "I will walk to school as much as possible to save fuel and do my part in becoming a responsible eco-friendly citizen."
"Students from both countries benefited immensely from the partnership and we hope this initiative will encourage more young people to play active roles in conserving their environment and wildlife," says Tom Mann of Hendon School.
The central zoo is planning to set up a Centre for Environment Education (CFEE) to promote conservation education in Nepal and extend its reach beyond the capital.
Green in the inside
Amita Sen, a dyslexia specialist, who is the only Nepali trustee of the UK chapter of the Nature Trust Conservation in Nepal (NTNC), has been working for the past two decades promoting conservation education. An environment enthusiast since her teens, Sen also helped develop the syllabus for environment education in Nepal.
She says that Nepal's environment education has come a long way since the early 1990s when she started out and is happy to see young Nepali students stepping up and taking responsibility for conservation. She adds: "Natural resources and environment are Nepal's biggest wealth and it is encouraging to see growing number of youngsters working hard to conserve these precious resources."
It's a zoo out there, HEMLATA RAI
The zookeepers are enthusiastic, and visitors can't get over the open space and exotic species. Now if only the Central Zoo had some more cash.
It's still a zoo out there!, SRADDHA BASNYAT
Visit the new, improved Central Zoo in Jawalakhel and help save Nepal's wildlife.