Angeline Schwan shows Pretoria News the anti-littering campaign they have at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria.Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ANA
Pretoria - Zoo visitors spend too little time at enclosures and if they don’t see the animal immediately, they walk past and assumed the enclosures were empty, says Pretoria Zoo spokesperson Angeline Schwan in response to recent visitor complaints about the absence of animals.

Visitors took to social social media over the festive season, saying that in addition, the place had shoddy maintenance and a lacklustre workforce.

On Facebook, Christiaan David Vdm Cardoso vented his frustrations, saying he would not be visiting the zoo again.

His post outlined his qualms, which included staff not doing their job properly, poor conditions and a run-down facility, among others.

“I cannot express my utter and sickening discuss at how the zoo has turned out!!!

“As an avid zoo visitor annually I am saddened to say that you will not see me and my family ever again,” he wrote.

Saying it was a depressing place to go to, Cardoso said: “I am 37 years old, have been coming to the zoo since I was 4 and now with my own daughter wanted to continue the tradition.

“However, I am saddened to say it will not continue.

“The zoo has officially turned out like any public office eg a clinic, hospital or Home Affairs, tattered, run down and staff that do what they have to, to have and keep a ‘job’, with no one that truly cares about anything around them besides their direct duty. This includes management.”

Other people in the group also claimed to have had terrible experiences at the zoo, saying they too were no longer interested in visiting it.

They raised issues like overgrown, empty enclosures, saying that some appeared to be outdated and depressing for the animals.

According to the visitors, there were untidy enclosures filled with cans.

During a visit there this week, the Pretoria News team was shown around some of the enclosures.

Schwan explained: “What happens often is that the animals from that area might be resting, so you assume it’s empty. You don’t take a little while longer just to see if you can see something. We have that issue at the gorilla enclosure.”

Explaining the “overgrowth”, she said: “Animals, just like people, need to have a sense of privacy and in that way, by giving a more natural look and feel, they get the opportunity to rest and to be a little bit out of the public eye.”

Normally, the animals would be kept away if they were ill, had just had babies or were being moved from one area to the other, but a sign would be put up to indicate the reason, she said.

And as she took the Pretoria News team on the tour, they almost walked past a green mamba cage, which appeared empty, but the snake had wrapped itself around the leaves.

Schwan said snakes also sometimes hid under the rocks and could not be seen.

On Facebook, users complained about the pygmy hippo enclosure, which they said was filled with soft drink and beer cans.

Schwan said this was sometimes due to the wind blowing them into the enclosure when dustbins were full.

“As you can see, the dust bins are very close. So if the bin overflows, the wind blows the stuff in there.”

In addition, she said their staff was dedicated and doing all they could to ensure the area was clean, but it was also the visitors’ responsibility not to litter.

“We’ve got signs at the zoo that say ‘Please do not litter’.

“It is very difficult to control visitors and sometimes the wind can blow dirt in, but our staff clean that out.”

Responding to the issue of staff not doing their job, she said the complainant probably came around the time they catered for a lot of people and struggled to please everyone.

All in all, Schwan said, the zoo remained highly maintained, as clean as possible and with everything it promised.

Pretoria News