This morning I stumbled upon this article on The Daily Star about the crippled state of Dhaka Zoo and the animals that live inside of it. As much as I agree with the article, I wish it covered the other side of why it’s not such a popular destination for many Dhaka dwellers.
If you’re a regular news reader, chances are, you’ve seen this topic come up every few years. When it does, someone somewhere in the authority wakes up and brings about some positive changes in the living conditions at the Zoo. And then, after a while, it all goes back to being the same and repeats the circle.
Like the article reads, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the animals are being poorly treated at the zoo. Growing up, the Dhaka Zoo — or as we call it, Mirpur Zoo — used to be one of my favorite locations. I still don’t know exactly why I liked it and why I miss it, but I sure know why I don’t go to the zoo these days.
When I was a child, I used to be mad at my mom for not taking me to the zoo once every week. These days, I choose not to go to the zoo. Because, to put simply, it’s not safe anymore.
The reason I loved going to the zoo is simple: It provides with a calm and quiet environment like no other place. Well, the Botanical Garden that’s next to the Zoo does offer a calmer place, but I miss the charm of being surrounded by friends from other species.
Yes, the smell during winter — which is the best time to go anywhere in Bangladesh — is nasty. But I can live with that. I prefer the sound of animals all around me in exchange for the smell that comes with it.
When I was a child, I used to be mad at my mom for not taking me to the zoo once every week. Now that I’ve grown up, and I can literally go to the zoo every day, I don’t go there anymore. It’s not because I’ve gotten bored of it. It’s because it’s simply not safe.
The problem with a large and mostly empty area like the zoo and the Botanical Garden is that it becomes the robbers’ heaven. Unless you’re in a group of friends, you’re more likely to run into some people who won’t make your experience of visiting the place a nice one.
I’m not even talking about the traditional robbery where someone would snatch your bag or stop and threaten with a gun or knife. Yes, those take place as well, but the situation you’re more likely to run into is that there will be hawkers asking you to buy food from them. That’s a typical scenario in the rest of the city, but chances are, their tactics of selling food items to you will be quite different.
If you refuse to buy something, they will not listen, and they will just open a can of soft drink or whatever and put it beside you. And then, they’ll pretty much extort you to pay for those even if you didn’t order or touch the food. Plus the price you’ll have to pay is far more than the product’s retail price.
If your group is big enough, they’ll probably not target you. But if you’re just with a couple of friends, or God forbid, alone, then you’ll be an easy target. The stories of people losing their valuable belongings in the Zoo and Botanical Garden area are not so few in numbers either.
The security for the visitors in Mirpur Zoo, Botanical Garden, and their surrounding areas have never been great. At least, not that I’ve seen or heard of.
As the Daily Star article states, the zoo is still an attractive recreational site for many city dwellers in Dhaka. But if the conditions of the lives inside the enclosure as well as the safety and security of the visitors are not taken seriously, it will soon become a wasted resource in Dhaka.
Have you ever been to the Mirpur Zoo? Anything in particular that you’d like to add to this story?