When we decided to go to the zoo on a national holiday, we got two different reactions: a. There’s a zoo in Kinshasa? and b. Why would you ever want to go to the zoo?
So yes, there’s a zoo, and I’m still not sure I know the answer to the second question. Probably because it’s there, and we wanted to see how bad it really is.
The answer to that question, we found, is: it’s really bad. While we were expecting small cages and enclosures, we did not expect the low level of maintenance we found. Many of the cage floors were covered with trash, and there were a lot of monkeys looking longingly at monkeys in equally small, trash-ridden cages.
Still, I’m glad that we went to the zoo. To ignore it is to ignore that the animals are there, living in pretty deplorable conditions every single day. From this 1999 article, it doesn’t look like things have changed much over the past 15 years at the zoo. Except the number of animals which has been slowly diminishing from the zoo opened in the 1950s with more than 3,000 to less than 150 today. Someone with more dedication than I have might want to encourage the ICCN/government in general to increase funding and improve the conditions. It wouldn’t take much to make an improvement.
So what is there to see at the zoo? Lots of monkeys including the De Brazza’s monkey, chimpanzees, leopards (we did not notice the leopard at first and were quite startled when it slunk out of the shadows), crocodiles, an alligator (yep, from America), a sitatunga, some birds, some snakes, and horses that have full rein of the grounds. No, okapis. We’re still trying to figure the origin of the okapi that made an appearance at FIKIN (the fair) in 2013. We think it might live at the President’s house.
What to Bring: Money and don’t lose your ticket. The security guards will ask you for it as you walk around.
When to Go: Any time.
How to Get There: From the Boulevard, turn on Avenue Kasa-Vubu (away from the river, right by the post office). The entrance to the zoo is on the right side immediately after the intersection with Avenue du Commerce. Drive through the parking lot and park inside the zoo gate.
Travel Time: In Gombe.
Risk Assessment: The biggest risk is to the animals. It’s pretty safe outside the cages, but watch out for the horses and thieves trying to escape the police with loot from the Marche Central (not sure if that’s what we saw, but we did see the police chasing some guys through the zoo.)