Zoo site housing plan wins backing

A SENIOR Urban Councillor and a district board member yesterday backed Government plans to build public housing on Lai Chi Kok Zoo and amusement park.

But their support clashes with moves by Mr Deacon Chiu Te-ken's Far East Entertainment Company, which wants the area to expand its Sung Dynasty City.

The Government announced its plan last July.

Two-thirds of the park area is Crown land rented on a short-term tenancy and Far East Entertainment is seeking to extend its lease.

But the Urban Council recreation select committee chairman, Mr Ronnie Wong Man-kwong, yesterday said: ''If it is the Government's decision to build a public housing estate there, I think we should respect its decision and let it go ahead.'' Mr Wong said while Lai Chi Kok had adequate recreational facilities, there was also a pressing need for housing.

His view was echoed by the Kwai Tsing District Board chairman, Mr Leung Kwong-cheong.

''It would not be rational for us to force our citizens to squeeze themselves into slums to make way for entertainment facilities,'' he said.

Meanwhile, animals at the zoo, which will be closed by the middle of this year, are likely to be moved to a new and larger open park in Shenzhen.

A company spokesman said they had contacted open zoos in Singapore, South Africa and Shenzhen.

''The 130 animals at the zoo are most likely to be sent to the open park in Shenzhen, which is still under construction,'' a spokesman said.

She explained that it was more suitable because of its proximity and weather conditions.

A decision will be made early next month when more details about the park, its size, completion date and how the animals would be raised, are obtained.

The decision will be sent to the Agricultural and Fisheries Department for final approval, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will also help to make sure the animals are settled comfortably.

An RSPCA spokesman said they welcomed the idea of sending the animals to an open park, where they could live as they would in their natural habitat.

''Keeping animals in a confined area gives wrong knowledge about their natural habitat to children,'' the spokesman said.

The zoo is to be closed following a continual fall in revenue, which the management blames on frequent criticism from animal welfare groups and the Government's refusal to allow the import of new animals.