State House permanent secretary Tinnani Umar says President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the remodelling and upgrading of the Presidential Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS).
The upgrade, Mr Umar says, is part of efforts to enhance the practice of conservation in the country.
He disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday while receiving a delegation of wildlife experts from Zimbabwe, on a week-long assessment tour of the PWLS, formerly known as the State House zoo.
According to him, given the success of Zimbabwe in wildlife conservation, the interaction with the experts from the southern African country fits into the ‘‘perfect picture’’ of partnering with a sister African country knowledgeable in international best practices on the subject matter.
He underscored the importance of safeguarding the wildlife in the seat of government not only for recreational purposes but also for rehabilitation, research, and knowledge sharing.
While noting that the State House was endowed with indigenous wildlife, Mr Umar said it was only proper to bring in experts to advise on the best way to encourage harmony with nature and decrease interference with wildlife habitat.
“We want a situation where animals are able to, can roam freely and those not able to do that for obvious reasons, would have enclosures that are internationally acceptable which will allow them to as much as possible, live a free and unencumbered life, raising their young and generally enjoying safety and security of existence.
“They could also have the opportunities to express themselves, exhibit their social behaviour to the fullest and have their young ones in a very safe and secure environment,” he said.
Recounting the role played by Nigeria as a frontline state in the decolonisation of Africa and the independence struggle of Zimbabwe, Mr Umar said both countries enjoyed a cordial relationship based on long years of cooperation on areas of mutual interests.
The Director of Maintenance, State House, Joshua Apagu, recalled that the idea for the remodelling of the facility commenced in 2017, followed by study tours to some African facilities in 2019.
He said this led to extensive conversations with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS) and some private organisations, including Wild is Life Trust, an organisation that rescues, rehabilitates and rewilds African animals.
Mr Apagu acknowledged that while the outbreak of COVID-19 slowed down the remodelling process, talks towards developing a comprehensive plan for modernising the facility have resumed in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The Head of Chancery, Zimbabwe Embassy in Nigeria, Tonderai Mutuke, recognised Nigeria’s potential in the wildlife sector and encouraged the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in this area.
Columbas Chaitezvi, a veterinary doctor with ZIMPARKS, pledged that his team would submit a comprehensive report and appropriate recommendations after assessment of the facility.
He expressed delight in partnering with Nigeria in an area his country had a comparative advantage.
Other members of the Zimbabwean delegation are Roxyanne Danckwerts, Chief Executive Officer, Wild is Life Trust, Craig Danckwerts, Director, Wild is Life Trust, Yvonne Janders, Managing Director, Route Through Africa, and Amanda Gamuchira Vambe of ZIMPARKS.