Beyond the zoo cleanup
Thanks to a presidential directive for the cleanup of Manila Bay, the Manila Zoo will be shut down indefinitely for what city officials promise to be a dramatic facelift.
The shutdown was announced after untreated sewage from the zoo was found to be polluting an estuary connected to the bay. The zoo, the biggest such facility in the country, has been in operation since 1959, when sewage treatment facilities were not yet a requirement, and has long needed a major cleanup.
Beyond cleaning up, however, the government must consider building a modern facility where people can observe animals in captivity. Around the world, operating zoos has become controversial as animal welfare advocates stress the importance of allowing wildlife to live in their natural habitats. Some animal rights advocates make an exception when endangered wildlife are confined to save the species from disappearing from the planet.
As a compromise, some countries have built zoos that look more like sanctuaries and conservation areas, where wildlife except predators can roam free. Such places cannot match the natural habitat, but the animals can be protected from being hunted down to extinction. In these zoos, visitors watch the animals from the safety of special modes of transportation. Some areas are designated for petting harmless wildlife.
The Manila Zoo is also a park with a lot of trees that help improve air quality in one of the most polluted cities in the country. The park can be retained with wildlife species that don’t need large areas for roaming. For the bigger beasts, city officials can work with animal welfare experts and advocates for a suitable, spacious relocation site. The cleanup of the Manila Zoo should encourage a review of the way our society treats animals.