Three years after the famous Zoological Garden of the University of Ibadan (UI) was devastated by a heavy downpour in August 2013, the garden is now wearing a new look. Thanks to the efforts of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Isaac Adewole and numerous donations from some well-meaning Nigerians, including the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, who donated N45 million towards reviving the garden. The upgraded and rehabilitated Zoological Garden, which had in the last three years been inactive, was inaugurated last week by Pastor Adeboye. The university’s Director of Public Communication, Mr. Olatunji Oladejo, who described the garden as “National treasure” said the August 2013 disaster would remain memorable in the history of the university.
“But, the university community is happy that the academic and recreational tourism no long exists in vacuum as the university management and other wildlife lovers have risen to support what could be regarded as a “national treasure,” he said. While commending the commitment of the Vice-Chancellor, towards the rehabilitation of the facility, he noted that his personal monitoring of the project on a daily basis to ensure that the contractors handling the project deliver quality job to specification would ever remain a reference point. Established in 1948, the Zoo is designed primarily to support teaching and research in the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science. But, as animal collection grew in number, it became a full-fledged zoo in 1974, with an array of visitors and tourists, who from all walks of life, far and near visit the garden frequently. Apart from displaying animals for teaching, research and the entertainment of patrons, the Zoo is for the conservation of endangered species with a view to saving or preserving them from extinction.
The garden, which is a home to a wide array of animals comprising mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, according to Oladejo received a boost with the appointment of Dr. Olajumoke Morenikeji, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Zoology in the Faculty of Science on September 20, 2010 as Acting Director. He recalled how the Director attracted high profile individuals and corporate organisations to the Zoo for a life-long relationship in the effort to revive it. The effort, according to him, focused on reclaiming the glory of the recreational facilities with some prominent individuals including the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who paid a working visit for on-the-spot assessment of the newly-improved garden. The governor, while lauding the management for what he described as “wonderful initiative,” he insisted that “the visit afforded him the opportunity to realise that both UI and Oyo State Government are on the same page in the provision of functional and world-class tourist centres in the state as he is vigorously giving the moribund Agodi Gardens a facelift.” Oladejo recalled how former President Olusegun Obasanjo praised the university during one of his visits to the Zoo on the invitation Dr. Morenikeji. Towards the rehabilitation of the Zoo, he explained that Pastor Adeboye donated N45 million to the Zoo in three tranches (N5 million, N20 million and N20 million) to actualise the university’s dream of building an Educational Unit where children and adults could acquire more information about animals existing in and outside the zoo.
He said the money was spent based on the new architectural design prepared by the Director for the Zoo, which include building of modern cages, children zoo, upgrading of facilities, sit-outs, walkways, playgrounds, as well as acquisition of more animals. According to the Director, some eminent Nigerians and companies that contributed to the development of the Garden, which is a tourism legacy, through donation of cash and animals include the late Alhaji Arisekola Alao, who donated a male Lion called Arnold, Mr. Tony Daaboul gave a Lion (Rocky); and Alhaji Boladale Idowu donated a dwarf Crocodile. Others are Mr. Kodi Ogbona, who donated a big Baboon; ACP Egbeyemi donated two Patas Monkeys, while Mr. Adeniyi Oladeinde (Ladsom) donated 10 desktop computers to the new Zoo library, among others, as well as foreigner, who gave $1,000 US Dollars to the Zoo towards its upgrading to international standard. Dr. Morenikeji listed some companies which contributed towards the development of the zoological garden to include Coca-Cola Company which supported the development of the zoo buttery; 7up Bottling Company which helped in the painting of the garden and also supported in setting up of the buttery, as well as the Nigerian Brewery that has continued to donate feeds for the animals.
“There are more than 50 species of birds, snakes and other animals in the zoo, where the animals are provided with natural habitat and world-related experiences,” the Director said, stressing that the teeming visitors to the Zoo will be able to observe the animals in safety, and with leisure, as they could watch them in their interesting habitat. Situated on many acres of land, she hinted that the fully transformed UI Zoo has a large concentration of monkey species. As part of the attraction, Oladejo noted that the front view now looks charming and welcoming to visitors, while it is opened daily to visitors or tourists, with the shops providing wide variety of delicious snacks and drinks. He said: “There are numerous picnic spots located within the Zoo where visitors can satisfactorily relax in the shade of giant trees. More cages have been built and the beautification of the river that flows through the garden has been completed. In place of the former bamboo bridge, there are two concrete bridges linking the two halves of the animal gardens. Ample and secure spaces are available for parking at the main entrance as security personnel are on duty for visitor’s convenience. Each room in the Zoo is well-labelled in order to educate the visitors about animals.”