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Broken pledges of Nepal's grandees leaves Kathmandu zoo animals in distress

Last year, KP Sharma Oli, then Prime Minister of Nepal, and his wife had announced taking sponsorship of a one-horned rhino, living in the Central Zoo of Nepal, for a year and promised to pay NPR 1.5 million to cover the feed, care, and medication

Feb 08, 2022
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Central Zoo, Kathmandu (Photo: Nepalfacts)

Last year, KP Sharma Oli, then Prime Minister of Nepal, and his wife had announced taking sponsorship of a one-horned rhino, living in the Central Zoo of Nepal, for a year and promised to pay NPR 1.5 million to cover the feed, care, and medication. But since then, he paid only NPR 100,000 and zoo officials now say they are struggling to feed zoo inmates. 

Jawalakhel Central Zoo in Kathmandu’s Lalitpur district had last year launched the “Adopt an Animal” campaign, seeking funds from people and companies to feed its animals. Its income from visitors dried up after the prolonged closure amid the pandemic and then zoo officials said they were struggling to keep up the facility.

Among many who initially took sponsorship of animals was former PM Oli. And, like him, several others paid only a part of their pledges and then stopped, leaving zoo animals struggling for feed, according to a report in The Kathmandu Post

Rachana Shah, the project manager at the Central Zoo, said, “We contacted the Prime Minister’s Office for the remaining funds, but received no response. Since he is no longer a prime minister, we stopped making a request.”

Nepal’s Chief Justice Cholendra Shamsher Rana had adopted a pair of tigers and paid only NPR 100,000. Former Forest Minister Suresh Ale had adopted an elephant and paid NPR 125,000. After that these officials who announced to adopt different animals have neither shown any concerns about the zoo’s condition nor have made further payments, Shah said.

Initially built as a private zoo in 1932 for Rana oligarchs of Nepal, it was opened for the public in 1956. The zoo, currently run by the National Trust for Nature Conservation, a non-profit NGO, houses over 800 animals and birds of 109 species.

Initially, the income from visitors was enough to bear the expenses, including the salaries of over 75 staff, whose numbers have now come down to 54 amid fund crunch. Around NPR 30 million is needed annually for zoo expenses. Last year's adoption scheme raised just NPR 3.5 million in funds.

Prior to the pandemic, the trust used to earn around NPR 160 million through sales of visiting tickets. Roughly 3000 to 5000 people used to visit daily. Now, they are hoping for the early opening, pending approval from the government, to get back to normal feed for the zoo's animals and birds.

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