$5.2m home for jaguars fuels row

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 July, 1993, 12:00am

A $5.2 MILLION home will be built for the jaguars at the Hongkong Zoological and Botanical Gardens in Central.


But the Urban Council plan, which includes expensive artificial rocks to create a natural environment, has drawn fire from some councillors.


The Council's Recreation Select Committee yesterday approved the project.


Its honorary zoological curator Dr Kenneth Searle said the proposed 600-square-metre cage was four times larger than the existing one, which was built in 1974 and houses two breeding jaguars and two cubs born in April last year.


''There will be artificial rock, trees, landscape, and a larger swimming pool, which will make the environment better and more natural,'' he said.


Committee chairman Ronnie Wong Man-chiu said the present cage offered no room for the animals to run around.


He believed that the new design could provide more space and would be conducive for breeding.


''We don't only breed the animals but also provide a good exhibition to appeal to visitors,'' said Mr Wong.


Mr Wong said about 2.5 million people visited the gardens every year. So, as a long-term development the $5.2 million cost was reasonable and worthwhile.


While the majority of the members threw their support behind the project, some were concerned about the cost.


Councillor Wong Siu-yee said: ''I think it is quite expensive as the Architectural Services Department sets the price too high. My target construction cost is about $3.5 million.'' He also questioned whether it was worthwhile to spend over $1 million for artificial rock as part of an exhibition cage.