Next morning we were tourists .. visiting the Parc Biologique de Bamako .. the Bamako Zoo
and the Musee National de Mali .. the National Museum of Mali.
With a large signboard outside the zoo* .. depicting pictures of lions, elephants, giraffes and many other species .. Alaghi was quite excited as he was going to see a real live elephant in the flesh, for the first time. The admission fee of only CFA500 was either a real bargain, or perhaps should have warned us that this wasn't going to happen.
Another really hot day saw us sweating profusely, but hopefully walking up the tree-lined entrance
with its green but seemingly empty enclosures. Peering into the undergrowth, we couldn't make out any animals at all and thought that they were probably resting in the shade, hidden by their marvellous camouflage. A few signs
depicting what we should
have been seeing were hanging on the railings, but it wasn't until after mounting numerous steps that we found a few small concrete pens with any actual wildlife. Some contained monkeys begging for handouts from the visitors, another had a crocodile in a small concrete-lined puddle and one contained a scruffy and sick-looking lion cub .. evidently we missed seeing a few more lions.
In the middle was a large open space full of young school children, being lectured to by their teacher outside a closed café, under the shade of some enormous mango trees. The sight of a Toubab seemed to be far
more interesting than whatever their teacher was saying .. earning them a group telling-off for turning to look at us, giggling and not concentrating on her words !
Further exhaustive exploration up and down steps and into blind alleys .. revealed precious little, apart from a goat or two, some scraggy-looking horses, a donkey, a pelican, a few gazelles
and a vulture. We did find a lonely chimpanzee, in one of a block of new concrete pens, which were much larger and tidier than the others. My new friend** slowly reached out between the bars and gently shook my hand. Having nothing other than a mint sweet to offer him .. I succumbed to his charm and gave it to him ! I do know it is wrong for members of the public to feed zoo animals, but I couldn't resist .. hoping that one small piece of candy would not be too great a risk to his health .. and he certainly seemed to enjoy this treat. So, children .. contrary to my actions .. I should say that it is most unwise for you to do either or both of the aforementioned things .. especially with crocodiles !!!
Factfile 21 : Although not kept in
ideal conditions, most of these animals looked well-fed and cared-for in fairly clean pens. Set in a large area of greenery, with trees and a stream running through the naturally landscaped enclosures .. the zoo had obviously seen much better days.
Not, I think, a candidate for the WWF ( the World Wildlife Fund not the wrestlers ! ) or other similar organisations to get unduly upset about .. but an ideal opportunity for a caring philanthropist to invest a reasonably modest amount ( by international values ) to regenerate what could be made into an important resource for preserving Mali's and West Africa's diminishing wildlife.
The nearby excellent facilities of the National Museum show just what could be achieved.
* If you know of such a person, with more
money than they could possibly spend in a lifetime, who wishes to be remembered for a truly worthy cause .. please tell them about Bamako Zoo.
UPDATE JANUARY 2010
Information on a wonderful new Website the Worldwide Zoo Database
is that Bamako Zoo is undergoing major renovations with an opening date of September 2010
After a request by Roman who is the owner of the Worldwide Zoo Database, I revisited the zoo in November 2009 to take some more photographs for inclusion in his Bamako Zoo page. There were
some new buildings and improvements had been made, but many more are necessary.
The pictures I took can be seen HERE as well as on his Website
On leaving to walk the 200 metres down the road to visit the National Museum ..
Alaghi overheard a disgruntled visitor complaining about the misleading sign outside the zoo entrance
and the non-existent species, also asking why they had the skinny-looking horses and donkey, when horses and donkeys were a commonplace sight throughout the region.
I prefer not to believe it when the attendant answered: "Well, the lions do have to be fed !"
Obviously no expense had been spared in building Mali's National Museum*** ( entry fee for non-locals CFA2500 ). Set in a large area of well-tended gardens, the sand-coloured and fully
air-conditioned exhibition halls offered a refreshing coolness. There was a superb exhibition of Malian textiles in one hall .. showing an incredible range of patterns in cloth both old and new.
In the room opposite were many photographs of Malian people, dating from the advent of the camera. Intrigued, especially by the early black and white pictures, Alaghi enthusiastically explained the
nuances of their dress and housing .. and which tribal groups they were from.
The other main hall was full of ancient farming implements, weapons, the famous Dogon doors and Y-shaped ladders, carvings and stonework .. plus a few beads and ancient spindle whorls.
All in all an excellent display of the country's technical development, although unfortunately for my photographic records, the halls were so populated by numerous and smartly uniformed guards that any
attempt to use my camera to photograph the exhibits, was immediately halted.
After lunching well in their restaurant, we headed back to the city centre and the Marché Rose.