Children in Hong Kong say they want a "real zoo" in the city.
While this may not be a great revelation, a new study has confirmed that 90 per cent of primary school pupils yearn for an affordable, large-scale zoo.
"The entrance fee at Ocean Park has been rising, and most families find it hard to afford more than one visit a year," lawmaker Bill Tang Ka-piu, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said.
The FTU, which polled 3,300 children from 40 primary schools between February and this month, found that 92 per cent of them wanted a large zoo here. About 43 per cent wanted free entry, and 35 per cent said the fee should not exceed HK$60.
Around 12 per cent had never been to Ocean Park. The theme park, which charges HK$160 per child and HK$320 per adult, is the closest thing in Hong Kong to a large-scale zoo.
Entry is free for the Zoological and Botanical Gardens on the northern slope of Victoria Peak, but it houses only a small variety of monkeys, birds and tortoises.
Tang said Ocean Park's high fees and focus on tourism had alienated local families, depriving Hong Kong children of the chance to appreciate and learn about the animals in the park.
He suggested that the government use restored landfill sites, which are not suitable for housing, to build a zoo. There were many such sites in Tseung Kwan O, Plover Cove, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, and they were ideal for a zoo, which would need a large, flat piece of land, he said.
The sites are now used for recreational activities including a golf course and a pet park.
Tang also suggested that if the city did have a large-scale zoo, any entrance fee should not exceed HK$30. Zoos in Guangzhou, Taiwan and Japan charged fees around this rate, he said.
The lawmaker said he would arrange to meet the Home Affairs Bureau in the coming two months to discuss the issue and he hoped local families would voice their support so that the government would take the suggestion seriously.
He added that he would not expect a zoo in Hong Kong to bring more mainland tourists because they would be more drawn to Ocean Park - and they already had zoos in their own cities.
"As it is in Hong Kong, even rich families cannot see real animals without having to endure the crowds," Tang said. "It is high time for us to build a big zoo for our children."