Dehradun: The Central Zoo Authority has approved in the last three years master plans that map carrying capacity in 41 zoos out of 167 in the country, and earmark a separate space for rescued wild animals, especially tigers and leopards.
A master plan is a vision document laying out a roadmap for the next 20 years on development and improvement of facilities in zoos, and maintaining a special area for rescued animals.
“Certainly, zoos have their limits on housing animals. Problem occurs when rescued animals come in abundance. Under our master plan project, we have facilitated zoos to provide special areas for the rescued or injured or orphaned wild animals that will not be put on display and even stand a chance to be released in wild,” Brij Kishore Gupta, evaluation and monitoring officer with the CZA, told Hindustan Times.
As many as 112 zoos have prepared master layout plans. Uttarakhand’s Malsi Deer Park, Pt GB Pant High Altitude Zoo or Nainital Zoo, and upcoming Haldwani Zoo are among them. After the master plans are approved, the zoos will be granted funds to strengthen the captive areas.
Malsi Deer Park in Dehradun house two leopards rescued from the wild. The big cats are also exhibited for tourists. Nainital Zoo has nine leopards, most of them are rescued.
Though Uttarakhand has two leopard rescue centres in Chidiapur (Haridwar) and Ranibagh (Nainital), sources said the area and infrastructure there are not enough to accommodate the big cats.
Nainital Zoo director Dharam Singh Meena said, “We have only two enclosures for leopards and they are full. We have proposed four more enclosures so that we can accommodate more rescued leopards. We also have plans to strengthen the centre for housing rescued tigers.”
Rescued tigers are sent to Nainital Zoo. Officials said the zoo has now two tigers – a female rescued in 2008 and a male rescued from Haldwani a month back.
“Rescue centres could be established independently or even within the zoo. We have seven rescue centres for tigers in the country -- Jaipur, Bhopal, Vishakhapatnam, Tirupati, Chennai, one in West Bengal and one in Karnataka -- where we have kept big cats rescued from circuses,” CZA member secretary DN Singh said.
“For a state like Uttarakhand, which tops in reporting leopard conflicts, rescue centres are the need of the hour,” said Abhishekh Kumar, a wildlife activist.