Conflicts Escalate at Leningrad Zoo

Conflicts Escalate at Leningrad Zoo

Published: March 27, 2013 (Issue # 1752)

Yulia Vasyutina, the deputy head of the Culture Committee of the St. Petersburg administration, served as a peacemaker in a meeting between a group of angry employees of the city Zoo and its director, Irina Skiba.

Over the recent months, the zoo’s staff has been busy writing complaints to the authorities accusing the organization’s management of ill-conceived policies that are leading it astray.

While various experts are assessing the efficiency of the Zoo’s policies, Vasyutina blamed miscommunication for the escalating conflict at the company. At the meeting the official defended the management and stressed that at least part of the frustration of the zoo’s employees is due to the fact that most people are not aware of the activities of other departments, and therefore cannot make a fair judgment.

Vasyutina promised that the results of the investigation will be made public, and any mistakes or managerial lapses, if found, will be corrected.

The official also recommended that the director informs every employee about the organization’s salary system. A substantial proportion of the complaints put forward allegations that the system used to determine salaries and bonuses is unfair and unclear.

The atmosphere at the Zoo heated up in January, when some of the employees started collecting signatures on a petition calling for the termination of Skiba’s contract, after Mikhail Bogaturov, acting head of the zoo’s entomology department, accused the director of trying to dissolve his department. In his job Bogaturov is replacing his wife, Anna, who is currently on maternity leave.

The department also houses more than 70 kinds of amphibians, and Bogaturov has warned that they would die as a result of the zoo’s restructuring that will see the department merge with another section.

Skiba, in turn, confirms that the zoo needs the merger but argued that the changes will only be beneficial. “The reasons are purely financial, and indeed, we are all not interested in damaging any of our species,” Skiba said.

The new St. Petersburg Zoo, whose construction is due to start this year, will be the biggest zoo in Europe once completed.

The zoo, which will be made up of six islands inhabited by animals from different continents, is expected to open in stages. The first islands containing species from Eurasia and Southeast Asia are due to open in 2015 and 2016, the press service of Intarsia, the construction company in charge of the project, said. The zoo will accommodate approximately 310 different kinds of animals, many of which will be large species.

The new zoo will cover 288 hectares, 200 of which will be a park area that people can stroll around. The zoo is planned to be built near the Yuntolovo nature reserve and is based to a design created by Beckmann-N’Thepe, a French architectural firm.

Established in 1865, the city’s Leningrad Zoo is the oldest in Russia. Being a historic zoo, located at the heart of the city on Petrograd Side, it suffers from a devastating lack of space, with most animals being kept in unconscionable conditions. The idea of expanding the zoo and relocating it to Yuntolovo originally emerged back in 1992 but owing to a shortage of funding the plans were put off until recently.

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