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Minister pleased with zoo upgrade
Minister of Tourism Stephen Cadiz said he was very pleased with the progress the Zoological Society (ZSTT) was making in upgrading the Emperor Valley Zoo in Port-of-Spain. “I think the Zoological Society has done an excellent job. In a previous visit, about a month ago, we came and saw what phase one was. It was a whole different zoo,” said Cadiz.
The minister made these comments in an interview with the T&T Guardian on Friday after touring the zoo. He also fed one of the young lions, Scar. He said the zoo will be upgraded in seven phases. The largest one, phase one, is complete, with the second largest beginning next month. Gupte Lutchmedial, president of the society, said: “We’re finished with phase one and we will be starting the African exhibits (phase two) from the first of February.”
Cadiz said he had given the mandate that all work on phase two must be completed by October. “Phase two has gone off for Request For Proposals (RFPs). They’ve shortlisted six contractors. These six contractors will be submitting their tenders very soon. “I would like to see in two years the exhibits of the Emperor Valley Zoo are up to mark with any other zoo internationally. More so, I would like to see the Emperor Valley Zoo have every single local species that we have (in T&T),” he said.
He said the general public viewed Trinidad as having one product, which is Carnival. “That is so far from the truth. Trinidad, as an island on its own, has not only huge potential but also has a very well established eco-tourism product that is unsurpassed in the Caribbean.” The first priority of the African exhibit is the chimpanzee cages, which have to be totally covered and then work will begin on enclosures for other small animals.
Lutchmedial said phase three will begin some time next year after budget allocations are completed. The other phases include completing the tiger cages and reptile enclosures, he said, but the zoo is focusing on completing exhibits for the mammals, as they were the ones most stressed by the small areas.
He said the zoo intended to have golf carts that visitors can rent to tour the zoo. Cadiz said part of the upgrade will also involve the old cages being demolished where possible and new enclosures built to be as natural as possible. The minister said the zoo had submitted proposals for expansion and upgrade since 2007.
“We are not only starting this project, we’re going to finish it, ” he said, adding that the finished zoo will be fully accessible to the disabled. Upgrading the zoo would bring it up to international standards, he said. Lutchmedial said the zoo can be proud of its educational and search-and-rescue programmes as they are second to none and anyone can call the zoo about an animal and the zoo will respond.
The zoo’s purpose is not limited to educational programmes and tourism, but Lutchmedial said veterinary students are able to come to the zoo to volunteer and learn. The zoo has 150 acres in Manzanilla where pastures to raise buffaloes, cattle, goats and sheep are being built so the zoo can supply its own meat. Lutchmedial said the zoo has planted 40,000 banana trees in the last two years, as well as 25 acres of citrus.
At present, the zoo is self-sufficient but as a non-profit organisation, any profits made will be reinvested in the zoo. A gift shop will be opened next month where current residents of the zoo will star on T-shirts and other gift items for visitors to purchase and thus support the zoo.
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