By Ali Macabalang
TACURONG CITY – A zoo in this city has switched to full operation, drawing an average of 4,000 local and foreign visitors daily, especially during weekends, facility officials said on Sunday.
Alyana Honculada, Genalin Zoo and Rescue Center (GZRC) park liaison officer, said the facility initially started operations last September 8 in symbolic rites.
The launching ceremony was hosted by the family of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who owns and operates the facility, a first of its kind in northern and central Mindanao, Honculada said.
The facility is named after the governor’s wife, Genalin, who started building a combination of an animal refuge place and a children’s resort some weeks before she was slain in the so-called “Maguindanao massacre” on Nov. 23, 2009 alongside 57 other people, 32 of them media workers.
In another briefing, Genalin’s eldest son, Maguindanao Board Member Jazzer Mangudadatu, said construction work on the original 11-hectare facility had been stalled due tio the death of her mother.
It was in 2014 when his family decided to pursue the project.
“Like my father, my mom was very fond of taking care of children and animals, especially the unattended ones,” Jazzer said, citing his family’s management of an almost decade-old orphanage cum children’s education center in Buluan, the family’s hometown in Maguindanao.
He said the facility’s land area has been expanded lately to 24 hectares to build support structures such as cottages for visitors, a two-floor convention center, three swimming pools, and separate taming areas for various animals and birds, among many others.
Jazzer on Sunday toured local journalists to designated holding areas for lions, tigers, snakes, ostriches, camels, monkeys, crocodiles, buffalos and varieties of deer as well as many bird species, including monkey-eating eagles, among others.
He said authorized sources were expected to supply the zoo with a zebra, a giraffe, and possibly an elephant, adding that his family wants to tame and showcase to visitors what other existing zoos in the country have been offering.
He said the general public can donate to the zoo unattended animals of any kind, with the assurance that such will be cared for by some 300 zookeepers, handlers and workers.
The zoo management charges visitors a P170 entrance fee, with discounts for senior citizens, persons with disabilities and children.
Students on excursion and research activities may be granted free entry.