It once occupied a pride of place with a variety of reptiles that attracted the young and old alike. But over the years, there has been a steady decline in the condition of the reptile house at the Delhi zoo resulting in reduced number of inmates.
Just three years ago (October 2005), after being shut for some time, the reptile house was thrown open to public with interactive displays and a variety of reptiles on display. But, the statistics of the last four years (see table) give a clear picture that few of the species have been on decline, while the number of some species has reduced to zero.
The reasons for the decline are many. The zoo has been facing acute staff shortage for some years now. This means that there is just one keeper for the reptile house.
Lack of security, not just at the reptile house, but also for the entire zoo premises has been a nagging problem. Despite CCTV cameras at certain points, the overall shortage in security staff has resulted in theft at regular intervals. In fact, a few months ago there was an attempted case of robbery at the zoo office.
In the latest case, a pair of Indian cobras was stolen from the enclosure after breaking the glass window. The zoo administration duly lodged an FIR with Hazarat Nizamuddin police station.
Since the incident earlier this month, the administration has closed the reptile house. Zoo Director D.N. Singh told Hindustan Times, “Police are investigating and have asked us to close the reptile house.”
However, police officials from the Nizamuddin Police Station denied such instructions. “The investigation is on, but we have not asked them to close the reptile house,” police said.
The underground reptile house is surrounded by a lot of trees, which blocks direct sunlight.
“Reptiles cannot tolerate extreme weather conditions. There is a need of a design change for the entire house,” pointed out Himanshu Malhotra, a wild life filmmaker, who is also a member of the Zoo’s advisory committee.
Since the theft of cobras, there have been four additions. Two cobras and two pythons have been brought in from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, sources said.
The Zoo administration is also working towards finalising its Master Plan. Changes have been envisioned which zoo officials believe will make the zoo better for the visitors.