Around 12 noon on Saturday February 3, 2018 a lion attacked and seriously injured a butcher, Mustapha Adamu at Kaduna city’s popular Gamji Gate Park, inflicting serious bites on his neck. The butcher, who was responsible for supplying meat to the animals at the mini zoo commissioned by the state government about three years ago, was rushed to the Barau Dikko Hospital in Kaduna’s emergency unit for treatment. Mustapha Adamu ýhowever died a day later, leaving behind a wife and six children. He was buried at Tudun Wada cemetery in Kaduna according to Muslim rites.
Narrating the incident on his hospital bed before his death, Mustapha said he was responsible for feeding the lion for the past eight months. He said, “I think what happened was a mistake on my part because I was supposed to lock one of the doors after giving him meat but I forgot to do so. The lion now came out and grabbed me by the neck. It was my boss that screamed as he quickly threw another piece of meat into the lion’s cage. That made it to release me. In fact, even at that, the lion still tried to come back to attack me. I lost consciousness until they brought me to this hospital for treatment. In fact, I was very lucky, if not only God knows what will have happened.” Unfortunately, his injuries were severe and he did not survive it.
Zoos and game parks are a very important part of our cities for their educational and recreational value. Five decades or more in this country, our forests were so thick and wild animals were so plentiful that they often wandered into villages and towns. Many Nigerians of older generations could recall personal encounters with wild animals such as hyenas, lions, buffaloes, elephants and wild dogs not to mention small game such as deer, antelopes, jackals and zebras. These days a Nigerian could live out his or her whole life without seeing a wild animal, most of which have been driven to near extinction by habitat loss and the sprawl of urban areas. Hence the importance of zoos and game parks, the only places these days outside television screens where our children and even adults could see a live wild animal. In fact, we have too few of such zoos and parks and most state capitals in Nigeria lack zoos or game parks.
But while bringing wild animals into towns and cities is very important for educational and recreational purposes, it carries with it obvious risks. Game wardens, game guards and other officials who guard, feed and clean the pens and dens of these animals have a dangerous duty. However, there are stringent rules in place about how to handle, approach or guard wild animals. As long as these rules are observed, no harm will come to the game keepers. But then, as the late Mustafa Adamu explained, a game keeper could become lax or even careless with time and assume that the animals are familiar are with him or her not to cause harm.
Such feeling is encouraged by pictures we see on television of European, Asian and American performers playing with lions, elephants, tigers and dolphins. In our own local environments too, we often see charmers playing in the markets with snakes, baboons and hyenas. Every now and then tragedy strikes and many local snake charmers have been killed by their snakes. Once in a while too, a hyena escaped in the market square and killed a child or adult. It is time for the authorities to ban playing with wild animals in markets and town streets. However, since our people are very interested in seeing wild animals, every town and city should have at least one zoo or game park.
The Kaduna incident however shows that we must retrain the workers in such facilities and improve security measures. Accidents do happen, but we must reduce them to the barest minimum.