- Despite income employees complain no facilities provided to them
- Visitors also complain about the conditions of the zoo.
By H.M. Dharmapala and Kusal Chamath
Despite the Dehiwela Zoo generates considerable income to the country, the administration officials seem to be interested in providing facilities for the visitors, a source said. The National Zoological Gardens also are known as the Dehiwala Zoo was the factor for the fame of the Dehiwala Town and the appreciation of tourists.
“The employees often level allegations about the lack of facilities for the animals which are treated as exhibits,” the source said.
An employee who remained anonymous said that they were tired of working at the zoo.
“It has become a place of a nuisance. We render our service with fierce animals unlike those who work in the other institutes,” the worker said.
The Dehiwala Zoo is the main tourist attraction as well as a place which provides facilities for the enjoyment of children. We have come here with schoolchildren. The animals that lived in those days are not here now
“We are in an insecure state when the cages are being cleaned. Recently a monkey had bitten an employee and he was hospitalized. We requested the management to increase the risk allowance but it had fallen on the deaf ears and we request them not to deceive employees like that,” the employee said.
“Some places inside the zoo have become eye-sore due to water holes and pieces of demolished buildings. It has become an injustice for the differently-abled people who travel in wheelchairs,” the source said.
“The management has a big bank balances with the income received from the visitors but money is not spent on the welfare of the employees. Several visitors also expressed the same opinions. Sunanda Perera (45) who was engaged in an excursion with his family members from Kurunegala expressed his views as follows.
“The Dehiwala Zoo is the main tourist attraction as well as a place which provides facilities for the enjoyment of children. We have come here with schoolchildren. The animals that lived in those days are not here now.
“Some old animals seem to have been in hiding; they are not to be seen. The elephant with the familiar name Bandula which carried the board Ayubowan Greeted proudly while engaging sports in the days gone by. It is not to be seen today.
“We see many empty cages. The serial numbers of cages have been placed haphazardly and the order has changed misleading the visitors to follow the directions,” he said.
He said that there were occasions when a strikes organized by the employees have been staged and the visitors who came from distant areas were compelled to go back without seeing the animals as a result. He said that the people spent money as travelling and other expenses for coming to the zoo according to the timetables but a great injustice has been caused to them in this regard.
“The sporting events of animals have been stopped. The facilities such as food and beverage and sanitary facilities available inside the garden are unsatisfactory. There are no facilities for parking vehicles. “On some days, the Police make arrangements to remove them from the parking places and the act makes the school children difficult because they are compelled to go on foot a long distance in search of the buses.
D.G. Sumanadasa, who came from Agalawatte, expressed his views like this-
“Today we came to see many institutions in Colombo and Mount Lavinia Beach. We stopped the bus in one place and walked a long distance with children. It does not seem to have the beauty that was available in the past. “The roads are bad in many places. We are not allowed to go inside saying that there are strikes. The employees said that they seemed to be in an unsatisfactory and frustrating condition as they do not seem to have received their suitable posts,” he said.
“The entrance fee is high and the people are in a long queue to enter the zoo. They wait for about 30 minutes to get the tickets. It is difficult to go through the places which are under repairs. “We ask the administration of the zoo to allow enjoying the zoo for the visitors to fit the entrance fee,” he said.
“During school vacations, a large number of visitors come to the zoo and the authorities receive income in hundreds and thousands. But they have not increased the salaries of the employees. Due to the earth dumped near the Birds Park, the birds in the water tank below have found it difficult to swim freely on the water which is mixed with the soil washed away due to rain,” an employee said.
Bear with us- Renovation in progress: DG
Cabinet Paper on worker allowance submitted
Director-General of the National Zoological Gardens Dhammika Malsinghe said the Dehiwala Zoo comprised of constructions which were more than 83 years old and some animal cages were unsafe.
“Therefore, renovations and upgrading of facilities at the zoo are being done in several stages at the moment,” he said.
“If any inconvenience caused to the visitors because of the ongoing constructions and renovations, we express our regrets.
“Our effort is to create a pleasant zoological garden equipped with all facilities to all –visitors, workers and the animals in it,” Ms Malsinghe said.
Accordingly, she said open-air theatres, bird gardens and other open spaces for animals like the Jaguars have been constructed so that the animals can live freely, unlike the old zoos.
“In the process of making these facilities, certain parts of the zoo will be remain closed temporarily to the visitors.
“Already, inside pathways have been upgraded and maintained well. More spaces made available to the animals to roam freely, upgraded facilities and the special night transport services have attracted many visitors to the zoo.
“We have provided comfortable vehicles for this purpose. We hope to finish all development projects by the end of 2020. We have already upgraded the main zoo entrance and renovated the animal hospital,” she said.
She said the zoo had to be closed during some days in the recent past because employees launched several strikes demanding an allowance of Rs. 10,000.
She said they were in the process of finding successful solutions to the issues of the employees through Cabinet Papers.
“This could get delayed because of the elections,” she said.
“Our objective is to provide the maximum facilities to all employees, visitors and animals. The renovations which are happening at some places of the 83-year-old zoo will create a much more pleasant zoo to the visitors after 2020. We request the visitors to kindly bear with us in the meantime,” Ms Malsinghe said.