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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

Zoos: India's wildlife ghettos

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 02, 2013
First Published: 17:37 IST(2/2/2013) | Last Updated: 19:05 IST(2/2/2013)

Roar of lions at Delhi zoo or shriek of crocodiles at Chennai park may excite visitors. But, for zoologists it shows something else. Their anger and suffocation at being forced to live in ghetto like conditions in some of the the country's top zoos.

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The stinging observation has come from the national body mandated to provide better life to animals in zoos, the Central Zoo Authority. It has found that some of the popular zoos in the country are over-crowded and it may be affecting life of animals there.

India has about 165 zoos and nature parks in the country of which seven such as National Zoological Park or Delhi Zoo are considered big and another 16 as medium. Half of the major zoos in India have the problem of over-crowding.

The National Zoological Park or Delhi Zoo has 406 wild animals in excess to its carrying capacity. Sir Peter Scott Nature Park in Jamnagar, Gujarat, has 554 extra animals.  Bannerghatta Biological Park new Bangalore in Karnataka has around 450. And, Crocodile Park in Chennai about 2035 crocks more than needed.

Ravi Chellam, Director (Research & Conservation), Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, who has trained many zoo officials, said "Many zoos lack a scientific collection plan which specifies the species to exhibit, their sex ratio and the desired population size. Zoos in general allow unplanned breeding of animals which results in overcrowding."

It consequence is animals have to compromise with their free-wheeling life style.

"One zoo had 16 tigers in a big cage and another 12 leopard…The zoo directors was emphatic in claiming that they have turned solitary animals into a social being," said a wildlife expert, who was not willing to be quoted on this aspect of zoo management. 

Chellam said another reason for over-crowding was bringing in rescued animals from the wild into zoos. "Because of poor planning and a few reasons beyond their control many zoos end up exhibiting animals in a manner which creates misconceptions about wildlife among people," he said.

An official at Central Zoo Authority, however, explained that most of the popular zoos are inside the cities without much scope for expansion and not many new zoos have opened in the last decade to relocate surplus animals there.

Zoos with high over-crowding

Zoo No. of surplus animals
Delhi zoo 406
Sir Peter Scott Park, Jamnagar 554
Bannerghatta Biological, Karnataka 450
Crocodile Park, Chennai 2035
Veer Mata Jija Bai Udyan, Mumbai 110


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