By Aashish Mishra Lalitpur, Dec. 10: The Central Zoo is reopening from Thursday after a gap of more than eight months. Nepal’s only zoo, located in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur, was shut down on March 20 after the government prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people. Since then, it has remained closed to visitors. But it is once again opening its doors from tomorrow with a standard operating procedure in place. “The procedure has been prepared in accordance with the government’s safety protocol and is designed to protect the health of the visitors,” Dr. Chiranjibi Prasad Pokharel, project manager of the Central Zoo from the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), told The Rising Nepal. NTNC has been managing the zoo for the last 25 years. As per the procedure, all visitors must wear face masks and are not allowed to eat or drink inside the zoo premises. They are also not allowed to touch the cages or feed the animals. The zoo will provide sanitizers to everyone coming and there will be separate entry and exit gates, Pokharel informed. The zoo has fixed its opening time from 10 am to 4 pm and is rolling out an online ticketing system to reduce physical contact. “Furthermore, people will only be allowed to spend a maximum of one and a half hours on the zoo compound,” Pokharel said, describing the rules. “Only 800 people will be allowed to remain inside at any time.” This is a dramatic decrease from the 3,000 visitors that it used to attract daily before the pandemic. But still, the zoo hopes that this will get the ball rolling and tickets will bring some much-needed revenue. Almost the entire income of the zoo came from ticket sales – something that has been non-existent over the past eight months. This had brought the facility to the edge of abyss. With their economic lifeline severed, the zoo was having a hard time caring for the nearly 1,000 birds and animals it houses. It had to cut the salaries of many of its employees, some of whom even worked without pay, Pokharel shared. On October 22, the Lalitpur Metropolitan City provided an assistance of Rs. 1 million to help ease some of the financial pressure but it was still teetering on the edge. The zoo believes that reopening will help bring it back from that edge.