A new and redeveloped Manila Zoo in Malate, Manila will be opened to the public next year following the local government’s groundbreaking ceremony for its restoration on Saturday (July 25).
Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso led the groundbreaking ceremony held on the zoo’s 61st anniversary, and assured the public that the new zoo will vie with those of other Southeast Asian countries.
“What we are going to build in the near future: The best zoo in Asia. We will compete with them,” Moreno said, as he stressed that Manila Zoo was in fact the first zoo in the Philippines and Asia.
The 5.5-hectare Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden or Manila Zoo was ordered closed “until further notice” in January 2019 to give way for the local government, which was then headed by former mayor Joseph Estrada, to conduct a proper assessment and study of its rehabilitation.
But this year, Domagoso finally gave the green light for work to start on its restoration, saying the redevelopment and rehabilitation of Manila Zoo is part of his administration’s agenda to stimulate the city’s economy in the long term.
“Kaya hindi ko po talagang binuksan ang Manila Zoo [noon dahil] hindi pa tayo na[kakapag]co-comply sa mga alituntunin na ipanapatupad ng ahensya ng pamahalaan (The reason why I did not open Manila Zoo before was because we hadn’t complied with government guidelines),” the mayor said.
Alipio Morabe Jr., director of the city’s public recreation bureau, told the Manila Bulletin about some of the various changes and features that the Manila Zoo will have once it reopens.
“For example, we’re cleaning our lagoon so we can put filtration at its lowest point,” Morabe said in Filipino, explaining that this is because the lagoon is connected to Manila Bay.
“And within the lagoon itself, we will have a 30-foot waterfall. Perhaps we will also put fish and boats,” he added in an interview after the groundbreaking ceremony.According to the DENR, the zoo was dumping untreated sewage into Estero de San Antonio Abad. The facility does not currently have a sewage treatment plant.
Morabe also said the enclosure of Mali, the iconic 47-year-old female elephant at the zoo, will be expanded up to 100 percent to house more animals, including hippopotamuses.
Inside the zoo, they also want to have hyenas and baboons roaming around.
Morabe added that they are also thinking of building a coffee shop inside the zoo, so visitors can watch the animals, particularly those that are nocturnal, in comfort.
“Visitors will be able to interact with the animals,” Morabe said, adding that they will place either glass or kakawate (madre de cacao) trees to serve as barriers between the animals and the visitors.
“We will meet the standards set by the South East Asian Zoos Association (SEAZA),” he said, adding that they have already consulted with their experts.
Morabe said it will take at least a year and half for the local government to complete the zoo’s restoration because the process is more complicated than starting from scratch.
“It’s actually faster if we build from scratch. But no, we have to consider the trees and animals that will be affected,” he explained.
Vice Mayor Honey Lacuña in a speech during the ceremony, fondly remembered her experience at the zoo during her childhood.
“Tandang-tanda ko po na pagpasok dito sa Manila Zoo ay bubungad agad ang isang malaking elepante, andiyan pa rin po sya (I remember, whenever I went here, I would be greeted by a big elephant. And she’s still here),” she said, referring to Mali.
Mali was reportedly gifted by the Sri Lankan government to the country for safekeeping over fears that she might not survive in the jungle after her parents died. Despite the way she looks, she is healthy, according to Morabe. She is only fed with grass to limit her carbohydrate intake to keep her healthy.
“Sa mga ka-edad ko, siguro naalala niyo na bukod pa doon sa mahabang kulungan ng mga ahas ay may mga helera ng kulungan ng iba’t-ibang klase ng unggoy (Those who are my age, perhaps you remember that aside from the long snake enclosure, there were also rows of cages of different monkeys),” Lacuña added.
The vice mayor said the plan to redevelop Manila Zoo only proves that it will not be sold by the local government, contrary to various claims.
“Ang proyektong ito ay patunay lamang ng ating mataas na pagpapahalaga sa lahat ng bagay na magkaugnay o tinatawag na ekolohiya (This project only proves the high regard we have for everything connected to, or what is called, ecology),” she said, thanking Moreno for his commitment to keep and rehabilitate the zoo.