FG commissions first zoo, harps on importance of tourism to Nigeria economy

The Federal Government on Thursday Commissioned the first zoo located in the history of Kogi State north Central Nigeria with a charge on all stakeholders to key into the

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FG commissions first zoo, harps on importance of tourism to Nigeria economy

The Federal Government on Thursday Commissioned the first zoo located in the history of Kogi State north Central Nigeria with a charge on all stakeholders to key into the present administration commitment in improving the nations economy through tourism.
Speaking at the Commissioning of   Federal University Lokoja Zoo and Conservatory, (FULZAC), the Conservator General, National Park Service, Dr Ibrahim Musa Goni said  travel and tourism in Nigeria are estimated to contribute about 3.6% to Nigeria's GDP annually, which is equal to around 17.3 billion U.S dollars. 
He said" According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), approximately 180 million people visit AZA accredited zoos and aquariums each year, contributing about $24 Billion to the U.S Economy. 
"The establishment of this zoo and conservatory demonstrates a moment of hope and pride for our country's conservation efforts. As a nation rich in natural and cultural diversity, the protection of our natural resources has always been of utmost importance. Therefore, the establishment of this center holds immense significance.
"I must sincerely Commend the visionary leadership of the Federal University Lokoja, led by Prof. Olayemi Akinwumi and his Management team, for recognizing the need to create this center dedicated to the conservation and preservation of our unique flora and fauna. 
"By doing so, they have established an institution that will not only contribute to the academic growth of its students but also serve as a symbol of environmental stewardship and education for the wider community. 
Our Kogi State Correspondent, reports that Dr Ibrahim Musa Goni, disclosed that the role of zoos and conservatories in the preservation and protection of biodiversity cannot be overstated adding that, they serve as living laboratories, fostering deep understanding and appreciation for the natural world. 
The Conservator General opined that through effective collaboration between academia, conservationists, and the government, this center has the potential to lead innovative research, engage in relevant conservation initiatives, and create a platform for public awareness and education. 
Continuing, Dr Musa said "They can also contribute to the conservation of endangered plant and animal species. These facilities are important educational tools, 
providing visitors with the opportunity to learn about different species and ecosystems. 
"They also serve as genetic reservoirs for rare species, helping to maintain genetic diversity. Additionally, zoos and conservatories promote sustainable tourism. Zoo and wildlife parks are aspects of ex-situ conservation where animals are domesticated and bred to support in situ conservation in National Parks and Protected and Conserved Areas. This is because zoo animals can be reintroduced back in the wild to stem the tide of extinction and disappearance of species.
"I have full confidence that the Federal University Lokoja Zoo and Conservatory will become a symbol of excellence in conservation, where students, researchers, and the general public can come together to celebrate and protect our rich biological heritage, With a team dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability, the possibilities for conservation education, research, and public engagement are unlimited. 
" Let us seize this opportunity and work hand in hand to safeguard the nature that make our country extraordinary. Together, we can ensure a coexistence between humans and nature, securing a Sustainable future for generations to come".
He recounted the historical background of zoo in the world.
"This significant milestone not only brings pride to the university, but also to the conservation community and our nation as a whole. 
Zoos have been established in various parts of the world for centuries, with the earliest known as Schénbrunn Zoo, built in Vienna, Austria in 1752. 
"The animals in these zoos were kept for royal entertainment and as a symbol of power. In the United States, the first zoo was established in Philadelphia in 1874, followed by the Bronx Zoo in New York City in 1899. These zoos aimed to educate the public about animals and their habitats, while also serving as centers for wildlife conservation and research. 
"Visitors to zoos in the US come from all walks of life, ranging from families with young children to school groups, tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.
"In Africa, the first modern zoos were established by European colonists in the 19th century, primarily in South Africa and North Africa while in Nigeria, the first zoo was established in 1941 in Lagos by the colonial government. 
"Known as the Lagos Zoo, it was initially a small collection of local and exotic animals kept in basic enclosures for public viewing. Over the years, the zoo expanded its collection and facilities, becoming a popular attraction for both locals and tourists.
" Today, Nigeria is home to several zoos and wildlife parks, including the National Children's Park and Zoo in Abuja and the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden in Ibadan".
The Director of the Zoo Prof Jacqueline Azumi Badaki commended the pragmatic leadership of the institution led by Prof Akinwunmi for his efforts in ensuring that the establishment of the project sees the light of the day.
" Ours is not just a Zoo but also a conservatory Zoo generally is where animals are housed within enclosures replicating their natural habitats. Often the purpose is to display animals to the public, and in some cases the animals are bred for conservation, education and research purposes. 
"The main benefit of any Zoo is the ability to save species from the brink of extinction and start a healthy wild population again. With the ever-changing wild landscape being ripped apart by climate change and habitat loss, captive breeding programs are needed more than ever to assure the survival of some of species that cannot survive on their own.
" Conservatories on the other hand are specially protected areas for conservation purposes.  Therefore a Conservatory may consist of multiple units such as greenhouse and field trials gardens. Federal University Lokoja is located within a large expanse of land that is home to a variety of plants and animals and it is within this landmass that FULZAC is located. 
"There have been informal complaints from farmers of the activities of some of the animals on their crops and several of these animals have been also hunted down. The Vice Chancellor, in 2023 directed that 11 hectares of the landmass be mapped and surveyed with the goal of creating a safe enclave for the animals. 
"The educational benefits programmes within the facility could offer the public was another motivation for the University Management. For instance, signage at every shelter housing the animals carries a variety of conservation and environmental messages. Visitors get to learn a bit about the animal in the exhibit as well as the conservation status of the animal in the wild.
"In May 2023, the Vice Chancellor constituted a team of very passionate individuals to pioneer the developmental activities at FULZAC. The first activity was an Environmental Impact Assessment coordinated by the Physical Planning and Development Unit of the University. This was followed by the survey of the 11 hectares of land and the development of the master plan for FULZAC. 
"Aside animal enclosures, the Master plan contains a Biotechnology center for breeding programmes (which will also host the gene bank), veterinary clinic and field trial gardens.  As all of these activities were going on, the team embarked on the identification of the plant species in the Conservatory and closely monitored construction activities to ensure very minimal felling of trees.
" This became necessary to conserve as much as possible  native plants within the site. In the same 2023, the construction of a mini Zoo commenced. We began to populate two months ago as the shelters got finished" she stated.
Earlier in his address, the Vice Chancellor, Federal University Lokoja Prof Olayemi Akinwumi appreciated the team that put up the zoo together stressing that, the zoo will serve as education and widelife for Students, and researchers in the Country.
According to him "I want to appreciate the contributions of several key personalities for bringing this vision to limelight. I must commend the dedicated team of staff for putting in their tireless efforts for this project to come through. 
"The establishment of Federal University Lokoja Zoo and Conservatory, (FULZAC) is for multiple vital purposes hence it is an educational resources in providing a mini laboratory for our students and researchers in the field of biology, environmental, science and wild life management"

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Odimayo Olatunde Frederick
graduate of Mass Communication and Kogi State Correspondent of Fresh Angle International Newspaper
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