Tupa'i and his zoo plan must consider concerns by the Animal Protection Society

The excitement created by the announcement of plans for a zoo at Tafa'igata is understandable. 

But you’d have to understand Samoan thinking to know why.

You see, many years ago before the age of photos, cameras, phones and the internet, there were only a few things on our people's "to do list" when they visited New Zealand or Australia, countries which were considered the “land of milk and honey.” If you were going to New Zealand for instance, the mandatory stops were McDonald's, One Tree Hill and the zoo. It was pretty similar if you went to Australia, you’d have to see the Sydney Opera House and eventually a zoo there.

We get it. Looking back now, they are not the most exciting of places but for many of us Samoans back then, they were the places to go. Which is where many Samoan travel jokes you’ll hear at the kava bowls around the country originated from. The jokes will range from a Samoan’s first experience on an airplane to telling the village boys about the zoo experience.

Which is why it’s hard to figure why there is so much excitement about the announce that Tupa'i Bruno Loyale, the Owner of the Magik Circus of Samoa, will soon set up Samoa’s first zoo under the name, Samoa Safari Amusement Park.

Having been gifted five acres at Tafa’igata by the Government, Tupa’i is confident that the gates should open by May next year.

And at that time, Samoans will no longer have to look for a trip to New Zealand and Australia to visit a zoo. At Tafaigata, they will be able to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, camels, deer, ostriches, peacocks, macaws and more exotic animals.

During an exclusive interview with the Samoa Observer this week, Tupa’i said he could hardly wait.

“It’s something new for Samoa so we’ll definitely work it out how we’re going to do it and comply with any regulations they put forth," he said.

“We’ll have every i dotted and every tee crossed before any animals arrive, there will definitely be a quarantine procedure.”

He also assured he has already begun work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) to prepare for the import and quarantine procedures for when the animals arrive.

This was also confirmed by Tilafono David Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of M.A.F., who said the Ministry, will undertake an import risk assessment in preparation.

But not everyone is excited about the idea – and rightly so.

The Animal Protection Society (A.P.S) has already expressed concerns that Samoa does not have the expertise or resources for exotic animals like the ones Tupa’i has promised to bring.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, President Dr. Joan Macfarlane, said any animal in a zoo is liable to suffer, as there is not adequate care in Samoa yet.

“I don’t know what that gentleman’s overall plan is but I don’t see it is a good idea to bring in exotic animals that are not native to Samoa,” Dr. Macfarlane said.

“I don’t know how they are going to adapt to Samoa, and I don’t know how their needs are going to be taken care of, and how we’re going to ensure they stay in good health. If you bring animals like that in, it’s on the cards that they might suffer.”

One of the biggest concerns is the lack of vets available on the island. There is just one paid veterinarian in Samoa, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries livestock veterinarian, Dr. Renee Avea-Maloamata Orange. A.P.S also engages a volunteer veterinarian, Dr. Harriet Thornton.

A.P.S. has indicated that neither of these women have the time or the specialised skills to work with the animals Tupa’i is bringing. But there is a bigger issue.

Samoa is already struggling with its own local animal problems, such as the dog and cat populations.

“We should be focusing on solving some of these issues before thinking about bringing in animals that this is not their natural habitat,” Dr. Macfarlane said.

The President of A.P.S. is absolutely correct.

The point has also been identified by Tilafono who said ultimately the health and wellbeing of the animals rests with Tupa'i adding that the Ministry would likely conduct routine checks at the zoo.

When the concerns were put to Tupa’i, he seemed quite confidence in his response.

“I am an animal lover,” he assured.  “I am holding two Chihuahuas in my hands right now. I want to take care of them, I want to make sure it’s right.”

Well let’s hope he does.

Many of us still have memories of certain animals he brought to Samoa many years ago, which ended up making quite a number of front page stories of this newspaper. Let's just say  many of those animals are buried in Samoa.

Do we want the same again? Absolutely not.

It is why the concerns expressed by the Animal Protection Society are vital and valid, we hope Tupa'i and this Government take them aboard as constructive feedback.

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts!

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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