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The Financial Express

Dhaka zoo reopens Sunday after eight-month virus shutdown


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Bangladesh National Zoo in Mirpur is set to reopen its doors to visitors on Sunday under health protocols after nearly eight months of a shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, bdnews24.com reports.

Last-minute renovations and beautification work are underway to give a new look to the zoo which has been closed since March 20.

Circles have been drawn, each three feet apart, in front of ticket counters and warning banners emphasise the safety of visitors.

To maintain social distancing, visitors must use a one-way path with direction signs. Virus-related notifications will appear on digital screens inside the zoo.

Handwash basins have been installed at the entrance, while the visitors will be provided with soaps and sanitisers.

Disinfectants will be sprayed on the footpath used by the visitors, Abdul Latif, curator of the National Zoo, told the news agency. Their temperatures will also be measured with a thermal scanner.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock had given permission to the Department of Livestock Services to open the zoo under a set of conditions, which included the setting up of a disinfection tunnel at the entrance. However, the tunnel was not installed by the zoo authorities.

“There is a controversy surrounding the use of disinfection tunnels and so we have left it out. The World Health Organisation has also discouraged its use,” said Latif.

The main gate of the zoo has been redesigned as part of the renovation work. Decoration work is also going on in the inner road and other installations.

"Everything is being done anew. We have been working for a week. Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish the work by Saturday,” said Yasin, a painter working at the zoo.

Welders were seen working on the animal enclosures; the water supply system is being reformed.

“I am setting up the water lines again and the work is almost done. I am making arrangements to ensure smooth operations after the reopening of the zoo,” said zoo plumber Abdur Rahman.

Cleaning work has also been completed. All in all, the entire zoo is now set for a festive reopening.

Everything in the zoo has been decorated in a new way to surprise the visitors as it had been shut for a long time, said Latif.

"The zoological museum is being decorated. We have arranged for fish in the aquarium. There are some animal bodies in the museum and we have curated them in a new way. Preparations are almost complete. Now, we are waiting for the visitors.”

Visitors have been granted free access to the zoo on the first Sunday of every month until March to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Latif said.

"Visitors will be able to see the photographs of Bangabandhu's life and work for free at the zoological museum."

CURBS ON VISITING HOURS

Although the zoo is reopening after a long break, limits have been set on the visiting hours and the number of visitors due to the ongoing pandemic. The zoo will now be open for six hours instead of the usual eight. Authorities may shut down the zoo once again if the outbreak worsens.

A maximum of 2,000 visitors will be allowed between 9 am and 3 pm a day. Before the pandemic hit, 8,000-10,000 people had visited the zoo a day.

"If the situation returns to normal, the visiting hours will probably be extended. But we’ll review the matter if the situation becomes complicated again,” Latif said.

One has to enter the zoo by directly buying a ticket from the counter while maintaining physical distancing, he said.

“We are trying to figure out a way to sell tickets online. It's a time-consuming and expensive process.”

People over 60 will not be allowed to enter the zoo, Latif said.

RULES FOR VISITORS

  • Stand in marked circles at the time of entry
  • Use the footpath
  • Use the one-way path with direction signs after entry
  • Wear masks
  • Do not carry food inside
  • Do not crowd the premises

ANIMAL SAFETY

Due to a lack of visitors, the zoo animals had gotten a new lease of life. Extra precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the animals due to the pandemic, Latif said.

“We have arranged for one-layer, two-layer and three-layer protection on the sides of different animal sheds. We will also spray disinfectants at a certain time of the day.”

Caretakers will observe the visitor spots. “There is no chance of visitors getting close to the animals,” Latif said adding that vigilance will be maintained so that the visitors cannot feed the animals.

The animals will be safe even after the arrival of visitors, he said.

“None of our animals are suffering from any disease. Their fertility rate has also increased.”

BIRTH OF NEW ANIMALS

The 186-acre zoo has seen the birth of 116 new cubs, including giraffes, horses and donkeys, amid the pandemic. The zoo currently has a total of 2,815 animals.

It was not possible to bring in any new animals from the outside due to the pandemic, said Latif. "We had filed orders for new animals but did not receive any.”

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