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Delhi’s dolphin dreams

Dolphins could make a debut at Delhi zoo. But wildlife experts aren’t overtly enthusiastic, report Nivedita Khandekar.

delhi Updated: Oct 10, 2009 23:28 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

Dolphins could make a debut at Delhi zoo. But wildlife experts aren’t overtly enthusiastic.

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh recently said Gangetic dolphins — the nation’s aquatic animal — would be kept at National Zoological Park to educate visitors about the endangered species.

The species is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act and hence the opinion is divided over the issue of Gangetic dolphins in captivity, a first such experiment in the country.

Zoo officials have said they would chalk out a plan if the government so directed.

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All zoos in India need permission from regulatory body Central Zoo Authority (CZA) before introducing any new species.

So, if and when the plan is finalised, the zoo would have to prepare a detailed proposal after a proper study. “Once a detailed proposal reaches the CZA, it would study the feasibility thoroughly and then only give the go ahead,” sources said.

However, a ministry source doubted if the zoo had necessary expertise and technical knowhow to manage a marine aquarium.

Not just ministry officials, some wildlife experts are also sceptical about the idea.

Gautam Grover, managing trustee of Animal Saviour, an NGO, said: “Before thinking of dolphins, Delhi zoo needs to work on its existing animals and their enclosures.”

The animals need to be kept in as natural surroundings as possible, he said adding the zoo “has no resources to tackle the problems of zoochosis (mental illness caused due to stress of captivity).

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However, not all are opposed to the idea.

Himanshu Malhotra, wildlife filmmaker and member of the zoo’s advisory committee said: “If it wants to retain natural heritage and improve wildlife and environment, funds should not be a problem. In fact, if the government wants, neither infrastructure nor funds would be a problem.”

He suggested if water shortage was a problem, a dedicated pipeline could be set up from Wazirabad to the zoo.

“But before that, it is important to... check... how many dolphins have survived in captivity,” he said.

Ramesh was unavailable for comments.