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    80pc of war-hit Kabul Zoo reconstructed

    KABUL (PAN): With the reconstruction of the Kabul Zoo, which was destroyed during decades of civil war, the number of visitors will significantly increase, the city mayor hopes.

    Constructed in 1976 on the Bank of the Kabul River, the zoo once had 500 animals and was regarded as one of the best in the region, attracting droves of visitors.

    Luring more than 500,000 visitors annually, the zoo's reconstruction was being funded by the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO),  the Kabul mayor said on Thursday.

    Inaugurating the rebuilt portion of the facility, Mohammad Younus Nawandesh said the ECO had provided $1.3 million (61.9 billion afghanis) for the renovation of the zoo.

    Some of the birds, reptiles and animals either escaped or were killed during the conflict, he said, adding that some countries had pledged to donate animals to the zoo.

    In 2006, the Kabul Zoo got membership of the South Asian Zoo Association for Regional Cooperation (SAZARC). It was included in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in 2010, Nawandesh said.

    The reconstructed part of the zoo included a clinic for animals, a restaurant, administrative offices, a conference hall, a boundary wall and a canteen, said Kabul Zoo Director Aziz Gul Saqib.

    The Kabul Zoo had about six official staffs and about 17 hired labourers, which were inadequate and extra 30 staffs and hired labourers were needed, he said, adding that the revenue collected from the tickets of visitors was at more than 7 million afs.

    He said 1,500 to 2,000 people visited the site on a daily basis, but on Thursdays and Fridays, the number increased to about 8,000. On special days such as Nawroz and Eids, 20,000 people come to the zoo.

    Currently, the zoo has 45 different kinds of animals and birds, 42 types of aquatic creatures and different imported, as well as Afghan, fauna.

    The zoo beasts include bears, pigs, wolves, foxes, lions, tigers and monkeys. It also has eagles, parrots, peacocks, snakes and crocodiles. Saqib urged the visitors to help them keep the zoo clean.

    Before the civil war there were about 719 types of animals and reptiles in the zoo, according to officials. Previously, a ticket cost 10afs, but the municipality has now doubled the price as part of efforts to boost the zoo revenue.

    An ECO representative in Afghanistan, also present at the inauguration ceremony, said the organisation was willing to provide more funds for the reconstruction of the zoo.