Sofia Zoo Aims to Constantly Improve Conditions for Animals, Get Increasingly Involved with Conservation - Director

ESD 18:28:01 20-07-2019

Sofia Zoo Aims to Constantly Improve
Conditions for Animals, Get Increasingly Involved
with Conservation - Director

Sofia, July 20 (BTA) - Sofia Zoos aims to constantly improve the
conditions for animals and get increasingly involved with conservation work, Zoo director Dobromir Borislavov said in a BTA interview. It is in a process of constantly expanding and merging the animals' enclosures. Currently, the zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from more than 280 species.

For instance, two years ago the outside enclosure of the tigress Shelly had an area of around 50 sq.m, while it now covers 2,000 sq. m.

"At this stage we can't afford to set aside such large areas for all species. However we should constantly expand their living areas in order to help them feel comfortable."

According to him, this task requires substantial financial resources.

The plan for the reconstruction of the Zoo involves the development of biogeographic areas for animals. Animals will no longer be divided into displays for mammals, predators, giants, primates, small predators and birds but according to biogeographic areas such as America, South America, Eurasia, Australia and Africa.

It is unclear when the project will be implemented as this is an expensive endeavour. "We would like the Sofia Zoo to look like the other big zoos in a few years' time where animals are displayed by biogeographic areas," said Borislavov.

The Sofia Zoo also aims to foster rare and disappearing species with dwindling populations. "This is a global trend among zoo," he said.

He was adamant that the Zoo should take in animals whose care has an aim and a cause. They may not be as interesting to visitors but they are very valuable for breeding and conservation efforts.

An increasing number of zoos around the world get involved in breeding and reintroduction programmes. The Sofia Zoo is already part of the European Endangered Species Programme whose aim is to breed rare and endangered species in zoos.

Among the rare species in the Sofia Zoo are sloth bears, hornbills and antelopes. The sloth bears and the hornbills are among the recent additions to the zoo. The hornbills came from the Attica zoo in Greece and have already settled in. However, wintering will be a challenge as these birds love the warm climate and they should have the right conditions, said Borislavov adding that Sofia will make sure they have what they need.

Next week visitors at the zoo will be able to see two rare antelopes for the first time as the two animals are still settling in. One has come from Poland and the other one from the Czech Republic.

The Sofia Zoo is focusing its efforts on creating breeding pairs and exchange with other zoos, the director says.

Very recently a male and a female small-clawed otters paired and will have babies very soon. An addax, which has been in the Sofia Zoo for long years, had a calf recently. It is a critically endangered species with no more than 300 individuals across the world - and three of them in Sofia under the European Endangered Species Programme.

Borislavov says that under this programme the Sofia Zoo is working with a coordinator who helps with the care and monitors the breeding cooperation process.

The addax calf will go to another zoo which is also part of the programme and has males, and will hopefully has its own offspring.

Sofia does not have conditions for an entire herd of this species, Borislavov says.

He says that it is vital that each species in the Zoo has a large enough enclosure and adequate landscaping that meet the latest international standards.

Among the most valuable animals in the Sofia Zoo is a couple of Egyptian vultures. They have bred successfully for five straight years. Last year they had two chicks and this year one. "The aim is to think of reintroducing the next generations into the wild," says Borislavov.

He explains that bringing animals back to their natural habitat is a key mission of zoos. "Reintroducing animals is a difficult and long process, and it does not always have a happy ending. It takes a tough and meticulous preparation before, during and after the animals breed," he says.

Also, it requires highly qualified experts and working cooperation with specialized organizations.

The Sofia Zoo gets support for its efforts in this direction from two environment protection organizations: Green Balkans and the Bulgarian Society for Bird Protection.

"We are beginning to develop in this area only now," says Borislavov.

He says that he could not overestimate the importance of teaching love and care for animals to children. "If we donТt teach them, years from now these animals will only be seen in books and encyclopaedias. Unfortunately, animal species continue to vanish as we speak, the number of valuable species is dwindling by the day and zoos remain the only option for their conservation," says Borislavov. LN/PP/

Source: Sofia