The FINANCIAL -- Building new open-air, caged enclosures for the lions, jaguars and penguins are among the up-coming plans of Tbilisi Zoo. A new primatorium will also be built. Tbilisi Zoo is waiting for a consignment of new animals to arrive, out of which the monkeys are already here.
In addition, several activities are planned for making Tbilisi Zoo greener, for which about GEL 40 thousand is spent every year. This time Tbilisi Zoo’s administration is inviting all the citizens of Tbilisi to take part in keeping the Zoo green by building a natural, living fence along the edge of the highway that borders one side of the Zoo.
“The Zoo and newly-built highway are currently separated by a low iron grid fence. Instead of this, we would so like to have a natural, green fence,” said Zurab Gurielidze, Director of Tbilisi Zoo. “Not only we, but our society also, were concerned about the amount of noise and dust which the Zoo animals had to live alongside. Such great concern from the public in regard to this issue made us think that there would surely be plenty of volunteers who would like to help us build a living fence. Unfortunately though, we discovered that our society appears to be more interested in criticising than actually supporting us as few people have actively signed up to the idea. To ‘green’ the 400 meter fence, 1,200 ‘thuja’ plants are required. Thuja is an excellent option for a natural border and living fence. Three plants should be planted per every meter of territory so as to have a tight and solid living fence. One thuja plant costs GEL 7. So far, only 70 plants have been brought in for planting at the Zoo. Our Facebook page has 17 thousand friends. If each ‘friend’ were to bring us a plant, we would already have 17 thousand plants!” he added.
The idea of this campaign was to involve more people in the process of making the Zoo greener. “Tbilisi Zoo is not a private space, it is public and was created for people to enjoy. It is also a park where people can come and enjoy the only green area in the centre of Tbilisi which has maintained its historical shape. I therefore think that people should also feel responsible for the Zoo. It should be a pleasure for anyone to plant even just one plant and to know that they have contributed to caring for one of the capital’s most distinguished areas. After that, our gardening service will take care of the plants’ development,” said Gurielidze.
In general, almost the whole territory of the Zoo is covered by green vegetation. People can see green areas even in the open-air enclosures. “This requires a great amount of attention and care in terms of learning how to choose the right plant life and vegetation for the different areas in our zoo. For example, once we saw that elephants destroyed plants, and that tigers dug up bamboo trees, we started thinking about what kind of vegetation should be planted in each of the specific areas, especially in the open-air enclosures. The most problematic and difficult thing is actually making the open-air cages greener. There are several green islands in the Zoo,” he said.
There was an idea to build a new Zoo in the territory of Tbilisi Sea, as there is not enough space for the animals in Tbilisi Zoo. It would be a different type of zoo, one which would keep animals in larger, outdoor enclosures, confining them with moats and fences, rather than in cages. The new zoo would allow visitors to drive through the animals and come in close proximity to them. But this idea is almost impossible to be implemented as it costs too much, according to Gurielidze.
In that zoo there will be located only those animals which are currently facing the risk of dying out.
“We have already started activities in that territory. But the Zoo will not be moved from the capital's centre to the Tbilisi Sea area; the reason being that this project is extremely expensive and almost impossible to implement. It would cost at least EUR 100 million to move the Zoo from one place to another. Because of this problem, we decided to come up with another idea, like to bring only those animals to Tbilisi Sea Zoo, which are dying out or have various problems. That Zoo will be responsible for ensuring the reproduction of the animals so as to boost their numbers. We will try to breed Caucasian Shepherds, Asian ounces (snow leopards) and goats, and build a bears’ shelter. About 50 bears currently live in restaurants in the country or in other places with people, which is not right. Less attractive animals will be taken from the old zoo to the new one because of the problem of space. But again, for implementing this idea it is necessary to have enough finances. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for finding the source of financing, ” said Gurielidze.
The most active period for visitors starts from April and lasts until winter. People do not like to visit the Zoo in bad weather or when it is cold. Over the course of the year about 600 thousand people visit Tbilisi Zoo. The ticket price for children under 13 is GEL 1 and for all others - GEL 2. I think this must make it one of the cheapest zoos in the world!
“The most popular animals at our zoo are the elephants, especially when they are playing. People like watching the big beasts - the lions and tigers - as well as the monkeys. Also, newborn animals are very popular with visitors. If a zoo has many newborn animals it means that it is providing good conditions for its animals. Several years ago the reproduction level was very low. The elephant was the first animal in the Zoo to give birth to a baby in actual fact. White tigers, lions and zebras were all born last year. The number of newborn animals is increasing gradually. We are building bigger cages than there were before and we have improved the nutrition of the animals,” said Gurielidze.
Tbilisi Zoo also offers visitors the chance to enjoy funfair-like attractions. Those attractions which were installed too near to the animals have been removed, as they were disturbing the animals and having a negative impact on their wellbeing. There will now be two islands specifically allocated for the attractions - one at the entrance of the Zoo and the other - at the end. The attractions do not belong to the Zoo, but to a private company. “In my opinion there should be no attractions at the Zoo at all as it is a place where visitors should come to see animals and get information about them rather than to enjoy attractions. For this, there are other parks in Tbilisi. However, for the time being the attractions will remain at the Zoo,” he said.
There are about 300 animal species in Tbilisi Zoo, including white rhinoceroses, lions and tigers.