In this interview Andy Osa Ehanire, the Chief Executive Officer of Ogba Zoological Gardens and Nature Park, Benin City, spoke extensively on the thrills that awaits visitors to the facility in the forthcoming Xmas/new year season.
What are your plans to boost patronage of the Ogba Zoo during this forthcominhg Yuletide season?
We always plan for Yuletide season, because it is the major plan most of our clientele are banking on. They may not decorate their homes or do any special hosting, but Xmas and New Year is about Ogba Zoo since that is where it is happening. We always aim at a carnival. Every segment of the society has as many thrills to excite, especially children and the youths, but no matter your age, Ogba Zoo is where Xmas/New Year happens. We do much decorations for an amusement park, then add foodies, music with multiple DJs, we have Uncle Six o’clock with lots of mascots, also dance competitions, games with lots of prizes. Of course there will be animal shows then our special Ogba Zoo Trade Fair. It’s actually a mouthful and people know we don’t disappoint. Same old fares at N300 for normal days, while N500 for special events : Xmas, Boxing Day and New Year Carnival. It’s a holiday to never forget.
As it relates to the impending second wave of Covid-19 pandemic what are the measures that you’re putting in place to ensure that visitors to the Ogba Zoo are protected from the pandemic?
Ogba Zoo celebrates the great outdoors where Covid-19 don’t have easy chances. Visiting indoors is where the problems lie but we have much room for social distancing. We are also ready with hand washing facilities and sanitizers. We will even help to make people better informed on Covid-19 protocols.
Which are the exotic animals you think will attract visitors to the Ogba Zoo this festive season?
The varieties are always available especially the lions, ostriches, horses, baboons, hyenas, crocodiles, monkeys, exotic birds etc. The well maintained grounds are enticing, with extensive picnic areas and forest trails. So you get a feel of the city and the tranquility of the natural environment.
What are the challenges that you face in the day to day running of the facility?
In Nigeria, you always have a few gaps with the required dedicated hands that keep facilities running, so we make the sacrifice for extra hands to make sure our operations are well supervised. Security is no problem as the State security apparatus is primed to do maximum deployment. We are still working on how to carry out our educational mandate with optimal signage and tour guides.
How lucrative can managing a zoo be?
The zoo brings more of seasonal income, but if you do the correct maintenance, nothing will be left. Feeding animals and doing regular maintenance work are expensive, but we choose to keep our fare stable, especially for school excursions and church programs, including helping event managers and movie producers. The biggest financial worry is the constant need for upgrades, since the technologies keep advancing. The truth is that we are always in need of corporate sponsors and charities. If you look at the recent lockdown, it is only zoos who carry 100 percent overheads, because animal exhibits must be maintained constantly, while other businesses simply lockup with not much running costs. So there is need for financial bailouts if zoos are to survive Covid19 restrictions.