Steve Uzoechi, Owerri
Dozens of animals kept in the Imo State Zoo and Wildlife Park are still in shock following their narrow escape from an inferno last Saturday ignited by hoodlums who burnt a section of the zoo.
But hundreds of endangered plant species were not as lucky as the fire wiped them out and was about crossing over to the reserve area before the men of the Imo State Fire Service and staff of the complex battled the raging fire to a stop.
The suspected arson attack happened barely two months after members of the Nekede community invaded the zoo and laid claim to a forest in the facility, insisting that the state government ceded the forest to them for expansion.
A resident of the area said the incident occurred early in the morning starting from an area close to the reserved forest.
Speaking with journalists on the incident, the Principal Conservative Officer and General Manager of Imo Zoo and Wildlife Park, Francis Abioye said the extent of damage caused and number of animals affected by the fire could not be ascertained immediately because the animals were still in shock.
He said, however, that the prompt response of the men of the Imo State Fire Service saved the situation for the animals and the reserve forests.