Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
There was palpable fear in Imo State as part of the state Zoological Garden located on Nekede road, Owerri, was gutted by fire.
According to a witness, the fire which started about 9 am on Saturday from the forested area close to the den of lions housed by the zoo, raged till about 1 pm before the state fire service arrived and extinguished it.
The General Manager of the zoo, Francis Abioye, who confirmed the incident, told our correspondent that he was yet to ascertain if endangered species in the zoo were affected. He disclosed, unfortunately, that plant species which provided food and shelter to some of the animals were destroyed in the inferno.
“We cannot ascertain the level of damage at the zoo but I can tell you that some species of plant were burnt down,” Abioye said.
The zoo manager explained that the fire “emanated from the buffer area of the zoo which gives protection to the conservative areas where some of the dangerous animals such as the lions are caged.
“All thanks to the buffer area of the zoo (otherwise) the fire could have penetrated into the conservation area and we would have been talking of greater disaster,” the facility manager said.
He recalled that the act of bush burning is punishable by law under a 1985 edict which prescribes a three-year-jail term without an option of fine.
Meanwhile, a team of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has cordoned off the facility for proper safeguarding.