The Sunday Leader

Mixed Reactions As Zoo Opens At Night

by  Ifham Nizam

Rohan Pethiyagoda and Gamini Jayawickrama also in the picture

The government will go all out to endorse the extension of zoo opening hours till 10.00 p.m. from September 9.

Most of the scientists, environmentalists, researchers and animal lovers said that as long as animal welfare is maintained in proper order, the idea is an excellent one.

However, some stressed that going by the zoo track record they termed it as a hurried decision merely focusing on the amusement of mankind.

A zoo official said that even in Singapore, the Singapore Zoo is open till 8.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. whereas the Night Safari Park is between 7.30 a.m. and 12.00 a.m. “Our standards …despite once regarded as the best in South Asia…now it had come to the lowest level…of course there some improvement within the last six months or so,” he added.

The Dehiwala Zoological Gardens will be open to the public from 7.00 p.m. till 10.00 pm with a series of new attractions, according to Zoo officials adding that Singapore learnt from us and now we are learning from them.

Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said that this special night safari segment will come into effect from September 09 onwards.

When contacted, Sri Lanka’s foremost Biodiversity expert/taxonomist, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda said: “I am not sure of the details of the plan at Dehiwala, but many international zoos keep their nocturnal-animal sections open at night, and then keep these animals in the dark during the day, in effect reversing their day/night cycle. That seems to work fine.”

He added that as for general disturbance, the conditions in most zoos, including ours, “are so ‘bad’ that I doubt if the additional disturbance makes a difference.”

“But the short answer is that keeping the zoo open at night should be okay by international zoo standards if our zoo abides by those standards,” he added.

Dr. Pethiyagoda is renowned for setting up the Wildlife Heritage Trust (WHT), a foundation he established in 1990 to further biodiversity exploration in Sri Lanka, with the business-model of publishing natural history books and channelling the proceeds into further exploration and research.

From 1981-82 Pethiyagoda served as an engineer in the Division of Biomedical Engineering of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka, and from 1982-87 as director of that institution. In 1984 he was concurrently appointed Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Water Resources Board. He resigned from Government office in 1987 to commence work on a project to explore the island’s freshwater fishes, which led to his first book, Freshwater fishes of Sri Lanka (1990), a richly-illustrated account of the country’s freshwater-fish fauna.

Coming back to the zoo hours accordingly, following the regular opening hours 8:30 am till 6.00 pm, the Dehiwala National Zoological Gardens will be open to the public for an additional three hours from 7.00 pm till 10.00 pm, after the new programme is implemented.

The different times of day and night offer different advantages – and disadvantages – to different animals; since people are most active during the day, we tend to think that daytime is the best of all times. But this is not really true.

Some animals would not survive very long in the bright light of day. Predators might more easily catch them. Or their bodies might get too hot and dry up. Or they might not be able to compete with other animals for food. If they could talk, many animals would probably tell you that being crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and nocturnal (active at night) is every bit as good as being diurnal (active during the day).

Hunters and their prey carry on a never-ending battle at night. Sometimes the hunter wins, but most often the prey gets away. At night, the hunters must have special methods for hunting. They need extra-sharp senses to find their prey in the dark. And they must be very quiet, for the animals they hunt also have sharp senses, and special ways of escaping at night. Special eyes, big ears, sensitive whiskers, and keen noses are just some of the adaptations night animals use to both chase and escape.

Smaller animals are especially vulnerable to being eaten at night, particularly insects and mice. But the diets of nocturnal animals vary as much as the animals themselves. Some eat plants and fruits, and some prefer rabbits or larger prey animals.

The variety of ways nocturnal animals birth and rear their offspring is just as wide as for animals that are active during the day. Bat mothers leave their young hanging in cave “nurseries” while they fly off to hunt at night. Kiwi birds incubate a single egg that equals 20% of their body weight. Raccoons can hide their broods under residential decking or in dry storm drains.

A safe place to hide is what most nocturnal animals look for in the daytime. Many find shelter in trees and rocks. Others dig or build their own shelters. And some nocturnal animals get added protection from camouflage. In other words, their colours blend with their surroundings. Although they try to stay hidden, it is sometimes possible to see night animals in the daytime. When disturbed by predators, they must be ready to run or defend themselves. And if they are hungry enough, many of them will even look for food.

Nocturnal animals will be with us forever. Some species may be in trouble due to habitat destruction, but the many survivors will adapt and thrive. Skunks, possums, and raccoons are some excellent examples of this. They have learned to live among people and make use of our structures, parks, and even our garbage.


2 Comments for “Mixed Reactions As Zoo Opens At Night”

  1. Humans have taken the role of animals and animals are comparatively better behaved than humans. Does the Buddhist doctrine permit such treatment of animals.

  2. Sangaralingham

    Let animals people sleep in peace after sunset. Not justified opening the zoo

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