Nepali Times
Life Times
Friends of conservation


When the Friends of Zoo started a program to encourage school children to visit Jawalakhel Zoo 15 years ago, it met with a lot of skepticism.

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."

See also:
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.

1. Animal Welfare Network Nepal
Good initiatives should always be welcomed but this news needs a context. Although the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) welcomes the zoo's conservation education efforts, it likes to remind the public that half of the enclosures of the Central Zoo fail to meet minimum standards.  

AWNN presently is rating the enclosures according to Zoo Check, a welfare assessment developed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Among the many failed enclosures are those of small mammals such as jungle cat, jackal, hyena, wolf, civets and leopard. We are especially concerned about animals held in outdated enclosures dating back to 1932, and which are visible stressed. We also have great concerns about the mammals and birds like storks, cranes and pheasants kept in the circular enclosures in the northern section of the zoo.

Although the network welcomes the Central Zoo's 5-year renovation and construction plan, we like to point out that various species suffer considerably in temporary shelters in the process. One example is Shiva the tiger, who is kept in a small, dark, outdated enclosure since many months.

A long term solution is needed for the large mammals kept at the Central Zoo, which houses too many species in a relatively small area. The government since 2008 has talked about opening an international standard zoo somewhere outside Kathmandu. The welfare Nepal's majestic wildlife is severely compromised by cramming them in a congested place in the heart of a city. They deserve to be kept in a more natural environment in a spacious rehabilitation centre cum zoo.

Conservation education makes little sense as long as the zoo residents are living in substandard conditions. Ask Shiva the tiger. 

2. Pramod Khanal
Article like this promotes our dependence on foreigners. I was excited first to see that our kids, most of them children of (dollar)millionaires themselves, were organized to protect zoo. It turned out that it was not the case. It was yet another, 'bring-donor-money,spend-and-publicize' gimmick. Nepali Times, please publish these stories, only after donors are gone, and the children maintain their activities for ten more years. Rightnow, it is worth less than the farming activities done by Jyapu in the margins of KTM valley, in terms of biodiversity protection etc etc.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)