The number of people and organisations taking responsibility of expenses for the upkeep of wildlife as per the 'Adopt an Animal Programme' is increasing.

The Central Zoo located in Lalitpur has launched the programme to manage the expenses of feeding and taking care of animals at the zoo.

The Central Zoo launched the programme after it failed to make necessary arrangement of expenses for food, care and treatment of wildlife due to the impact of COVID-19. The zoo was completely closed for nine months from March to December, 2020, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Information Officer at the Central Zoo, Leena Chalise, said the number of visitors at the zoo was still minimal compared to previous years.

The programme was launched on March 3 to mark 25 years of the Central Zoo's management by National Trust for Nature Conservation.

On the occasion, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had taken the responsibility of bearing all the expenses required for food, care and treatment of one rhino for one month on his own and one year by the government of Nepal.

Similarly, Minister of Forest and Environment Prem Bahadur Ale has taken responsibility of all the expenses required for food, care and treatment of one elephant of the Central Zoo for one year.

Likewise, the Narang Hospitality Pvt Ltd has adopted the Saras crane, Aditi Ghimire of Continental Trading the red panda, Kasthamandap Invests on the Sarus crane, Laxmi Bank the owl and Megha Bank the lophophorus.

Chalise said growing number of organisations and individuals were in the process of adopting animals at the zoo.

The zoo was opened to visitors from December 10 this fiscal year. It earned Rs 10 million as of February.

The Central Zoo used to make an income of nearly Rs 140 million annually from the sale of tickets before the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.

Its annual expenditure is approximately Rs 110 million.

"More than 10,000 visitors used to visit the zoo daily before the COV- ID-19 crisis. Around 5,000 visitors come to the zoo on a daily basis now," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing restrictions forced the zoo to close its doors for 10 straight months, thereby robbing it of its sole source of income – ticket revenue.

Eventually, the zoo that houses nearly 110 species of wild animals struggled to feed and support them. Even though the zoo has opened now, the financial crisis has not subsided.

According to the Central Zoo, the 'Adopt an Animal' programme has been launched with the objective of raising funds for the protection and welfare of wildlife and fostering public participation.

The entry fee to the zoo is Rs 150 for the each adult, Rs 90 for children and senior citizens and Rs 350 for citizens of South Asian countries.

The government in 199 had entrusted the management of the only zoo in Nepal to National Trust for Nature Conservation for 30 years.

Established as a private zoo in 1932 by the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher, it came under the ownership of the government after the political change of 1950.

It remained under the management of various government departments before its management was handed over to NTNC on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Birthday Celebration of late king Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in December 1995.

The zoo is spread over nearly six hectares and houses 1,160 species of wild animals and 110 species of birds.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.