Jamaica Zoo reopens
After waiting with bated breath for the past 59 days, the proprietor of Jamaica Zoo Paul Fearon can finally expel a sigh of relief.
Last Friday, he received the long-awaited phone call from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) that he had satisfied the requirements for reopening.
At the time of the closure, NEPA required the zoo to install satisfactory animal enclosures for the welfare of the animals and to submit an animal nutrition and welfare programme. The review came after the zoo's famous lion, 20-plus-year-old Santa Crus, was captured on video biting a worker's finger after being taunted in his enclosure. The zoo was ordered closed following detection of the breaches.
"Me get the go-ahead Friday and me open Saturday [July 31]. Me did a get so much calls and it was the holiday weekend so I had to. I have to try and please my customers and I was getting so much calls, it is so good to be back open. I am happy to be open because we were getting restless," an obviously elated Fearon said.
He added that the timing of the approval, at the height of the 'Emancipendence' period was ideal to regain lost revenue brought on by the attraction being closed. But although the Lacovia, St Elizabeth-based zoo has reopened, Fearon related that only a quarter of his pre-pandemic customers have returned. However, he anticipates a large crowd by the year-end. Plans are under way to improve the quality of his product, including the addition of a movie night.
"I don't know how I come up with the idea to do movie night, but looking at it I have never seen it being offered before anywhere. So the way how me design it, it goes well. After you tour the zoo, you come watch your movie and eat your food in a fine dining setting. It is amazing, it is something new for everybody, never seen it before in Jamaica or abroad," he said. "It a go tek a little time to come up back, that is a given. But based on the amount of calls I get, I know by Saturday [August 6] it a go pick up good. The people who came so far really enjoyed it."
Fearon said that the worker involved in the lion incident has not returned to work.
"He's not here and it is not a matter of him leaving, remember that we were closed after that incident and at the time, he was treating the finger," he said. Fearon added that he is still questioning why the worker pushed his finger in the lion's mouth.
"Up to now, I don't get a correct answer, it just look spooky. Something nuh mek nuh sense. If you see a dog kennel, me sure you nah go put your hand in deh much less a lion mouth. So something nuh mek no sense," he said. Fearon said that he received an offer to open a branch of the Jamaica Zoo in Africa in order to widen his tourist engagement on the continent.
"I am thinking about it. From you say Africa, you say animals, and if I can start doing something close to that, I can change the whole prospect and introduce something different where the animals are trained to be touched and petted. They are trained to pose for pictures. It is something different and I am looking forward to it," he shared.
In the meantime, Fearon is in the final stages of preparation to import giraffes, ostriches, zebras and flamingos and is completing a waterfall attraction.
"Jamaica Zoo is something unique and the feedback we get so far, everybody like it. They are excited to come back to the zoo," he said.