Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali, currently has the fastest-growing population of any African city: it has nearly 2 million inhabitants today and at this rate its population is set to double in 15 years. New demand for housing and public facilities has put a strain on infrastructure and a premium on open, green space. It is in this context that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is working on a phased creation of a new cultural park, a space of 103 hectares within a larger protected forest reserve of 2,100 hectares, which forms a significant greenbelt in this mainly arid country.
AKTC’s experience in developing parks, gardens and open spaces has shown that these spaces can be catalysts for changing, for the better, the quality of the environment and people’s living conditions. They have proved to be catalysts for economic activity and a source of employment, both directly and indirectly, particularly through the services provided for visitors. And through these services, they can generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining enterprises.
The Zoo, prior to AKTC rehabilitation effort, housed a number of animals in cages in a decrepit condition, Facilities for visitors were non-existent. Given its natural attractions, its large size, and its location next to the Museum complex, the project is conceived as a green space for leisure, education and cultural activities, focused on the general public, school groups and tourist and is part of a larger rehabilitation of the National Park of Mali which opened phase 1 in 2010.
The design proposed the unification of the sites of the National Museum and the existing Botanical Garden and Zoo into a single cultural/ ecological park of significant value, with natural and cultural attractions.
Phase 2 focuses on the Zoo’s core. The environmental and topographical character of the site – located now north of the redeveloped botanical gardens of phase 1 – represents extraordinary diversity within a relatively compact area, including rocky hillsides, wetlands, water bodies, and savannah like foliage. The new elements of a serpentarium, aquarium and aviary plus interpretative centre offers a architectural core from which all paths radiate to individual animal pens in a walkway system with views across wide natural spaces.
The National Park of Mali Zoo has the mission of: upholding the country’s tradition of encounters and dialogue; raising the standards of animal care; providing dignified spaces for animals and visitors; introducing handicap access; and, providing educational spaces where Malians can learn about the flora and fauna of their country.