Animal farm: Tales from the Kumasi Zoo

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi

Many of us first heard of the gathering of animals as organised individuals living together in a common place with rulers and other bureaucratic hierarchy in folk tales popularly called Anansesem in the Akan language of Ghana.    

The story of the gathering of animals, however, became more profound when George Orwell, in his classical allegorical and dystopian satirical novel: “Animal Farm,” gave it more philosophical and mind boggling treat. 

Both the anansesem and George Orwell’s animal farm tell us stories about how animals once lived together just like rational beings. However, in reality, the story is always different. Thus, leaving one’s mind in a state of dilemma as to whether it was possible for this to occur. 

In Isaiah 11:6, the Bible made a prediction of a day when animals, no matter their species, would live together.

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“In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all” (Isaiah 11:6)

Many philosophers, animal scientists, painters, poets, writers, preachers, among others, have expressed varying thoughts and opinions about the state of animals and their relationship with mankind. 

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A lion relaxing at the Kumasi Zoo

For instance, Bill Schul, the author of the “Psychic Power of Animals” noted that "Our treatment of animals is important to our own internal state. If we are to expand our horizons to grow to understand what the relatedness of each and every thing means, then our love and appreciation of all life is essential. Our respect and reverence for all living things will be reflected in our own living."

Since time immemorial, wild animals have been kept by people for different reasons.  Collection of these wild animals can either be termed as menagerie or zoo depending on the purpose. 


History of zoos or menagerie 

According to information sourced from www.cbc.ca, the earliest known zoo was recently discovered during excavations near Hierakonpolis in Egypt where remains of hippos, hartebeests, elephants, baboons and wildcats were found buried in the ancient city’s elite cemetery. 

It is believed that the pharaohs would demand that wild animals be captured and retained for their amusement, intimidation of enemies or to hunt in a controlled setting as a way of showing their wealth and power.

Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th dynasty in Egypt, the first great woman in recorded history, was noted for having maintained a zoo during 1500BC. 

The famous Emperor, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, King Darius in the Bible (Daniel chapter 6:7),  Alexander the Great, Kublai Khan and Emperor Wen Wang of the Chou Dynasty in China (who created the famous “Garden of Intelligence”), Constantine, Charlemagne, Louis XIV and Montezuma were all founders of zoos. 

Although zoos and menageries have been a feature of civilisations, the earliest zoos had no concept of conservation as we do today.  

The Kumasi Zoo stocks gees (above) and wild cats (below).

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Moscow Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Beijing Zoo, Berlin Zoological Garden, and Henry Doorly Zoo are classified among the world’s largest zoos. 


Kumasi zoological garden 

The Kumasi Zoological Garden, commonly called Kumasi Zoo was established in 1951 and officially opened in 1957 by the Asanteman Council as part of efforts to conserve nature with the purpose of displaying indigenous wild animals of Ghana in captivity, engage in the breeding of endangered species, offer a sanctuary for orphaned animals, generate revenue, offer a place for relaxation and recreation, and to demonstrate the linkage between wildlife and culture.

The Kumasi Zoo is invariably one of the known tourist sites in the Ashanti Region and Ghana at large. It has about 40 different species with individual species numbering over 135. 

The zoo, located on a 1.5km square area, is between the Kumasi Kejetia Bus Terminal and Kumasi Centre for National Culture. 


Atmosphere at Kumasi Zoo

The environment at the zoo is refreshing. The chirping birds, roaring chimps, hissing snakes, crowing fowls, swinging monkeys, quacking geese, and above all, grazing donkeys and an elephant painted a colourful setting.

Ms Jemimah Kesse agreed to give me a tour around and gave me a tour of the zoo,  briefing me as we went round the information was flowing like rain water.  

We spent roughly two to three minutes on each cage and finally ended our tour at the lions’ den. 

I must admit that I was very scared when we got to the snakes section. Although Ms Kesse stood close to them, I craned my neck afar asking questions.  

It is significant to note that among the animals in the Kumasi Zoo is a chimp by name Jemmy who is the most popular. 

Jemmy, I was told, did not earn his envious popularity title on a silver platter; his swinging, dancing skills and acrobatic dexterity earned him his popularity. Most people come to the zoo because of Jemmy.

However, when Jemmy gets angry, he throws his excrement at visitors. Unfortunately for me, Jemmy was very angry at the time of my visit, so I decided not to go near his territory. 

Although Kumasi Zoo’s popularity cannot be compared with Cape Coast and Elmina castles, visiting the zoo was encouraging. 

Basic school pupils form the greater percentage of patrons to the zoo. Adult Ghanaians, second-cycle and tertiary students, as well as foreigners also visit the zoo on a regular basis.  



Ms Kesse said one of the zoo’s major challenges had to do with its patrons, adding that some of the visitors tried to throw things at the animals.

She said one of the oldest tortoises in the zoo died as a result of a stone that broke its shell. Also, one of the lions nearly got blind as a result of such a practice.

She expressed concern over the fact that patrons did not adhere to the advice of officials of the zoo when getting closer to the animals. 


“Although the animals are friendly, it is not good to be touching them here; they can do anything. Even if nothing happens to you by touching them, the transfer of a disease is great,” Ms Kesse said.

Since animal farm has its setting in the fictional world, Kumasi Zoo will make you to better appreciate the story. The zoo has almost all the characters in the animal farm and other local folktales although, I didn’t see the popular Ananse, the clever spider.

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