LAHORE: Lahore Zoo has quadrupled children’s ticket prices to meet rising costs and buy new animals, officials said yesterday. Kids will now have to pay Rs20 – four times more than the previous Rs5 – to learn about the animal kingdom. Adult tickets will rise from Rs15 to Rs40. The move will be controversial among teachers and families who believe the zoo is an essential place of learning for the city’s children.

Zoo officials have introduced two new packages to reduce the cost for school groups. Groups of 50 will be charged Rs600 – Rs12 per ticket – while groups of 100 will pay Rs1,000, Rs 10 for each student. The senior citizens now will be able to visit the zoo free of charge. Director Lahore Zoo Shafqat Mehmood said the Zoo had been forced to generate its own income because the government had not increased funding to pay higher wages and costs. “The government does not provide funds for zoo’s development or day-to-day expenses. We last raised the prices eight years ago. Due to increase in the overall expenditure the administration was compelled to increase the prices of tickets,” Shafqat said.  

“Salaries of the employees, provision of facilities for the public, animals feed, managing cleaning system of the premises besides some other expenditures are all taken care of by the zoo administration,” he further explained. He said the zoo administration has requested the provincial government to allocate Rs 320 million for development and to overcome the financial crisis it is going through.

The increase in ticket prices has raised concerns among regular visitors. “I take my children to the zoo every week. The increase in prices of tickets is not a good thing as it would disturb our budget. Children love to go to see the animals and my daughter Sarah, who is eight years old, is crazy about animals, especially the lions. They love the camel rides but all that might have to be cut down,” lawyer Hammad Farooq said.

People visiting the zoo were not happy with the sudden increase in ticket prices. “It is mostly the lower middle class people and the poor visit the zoo. They are not rich enough to enjoy the facilities like Wonder World near Cavalry, Sindbad, the play land near Urban Café on MM Alam Road, Joyland and playland in shopping malls. We are left with no option but to take our children to zoo on every holiday,” said Zubaida bibi, a visitor at the zoo told The Nation on Thursday.

WWF Pakistan’s Director Species Conservation Dr Uzma Khan said she backed the increase in ticket price because it will help the  zoo’s  development. “The zoo is a self-sustaining organization it need funds to  improve services and facilities. This is  only possible by generating revenue. More income means more facilities for the visitors”, she added. Self sustaining organizations perform better than those dependent on government, she added. “Despite the rise in prices, zoo tickets are still affordable and cheaper than other zoos around the world,” she said.