Three months after eight Humboldt penguins arrived in the city, 10 more species will be added to the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan by February.
The zoo plans to get Madras pond turtles, common otters, sloth bears, hyenas, wolves, jackals, leopards, reptiles, lesser cats and birds. The Byculla zoo authorities plan to build enclosures for the animals, as part of the project to modernise the zoo, which was set up in 1862. Set up as a botanical garden by the agri-horticultural society of western India, it was handed over to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in 1873.
“The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) last month gave the approval to get maximum number of animals. The animals will be exchanged across various zoological parks in the country,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo. “Under the second phase, the authorities plan to get swamp deer, sambar, black buck, nilgai, Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, emu, jaguar and a zebra.”
Experts and activists are, however, unhappy with the move. “The Byculla Zoo is one of the most poorly maintained zoological parks in the country. Zoos in Delhi, Mysore, Nainital (Uttar Pradesh) and even as far as Darjeeling are better maintained. However, we will have to see what happens after the revamp. While the weather in Mumbai is stressful enough for animals, the cages, too, don’t provide a conducive environment for new animals,” said Anish Andheria, president, Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT).
“The zoo is in pathetic condition and needs to shut down. It has diseased monkeys, rusting cages and zero maintenance. While the central zoo authority might have approved the revamp, they need to visit the zoo to see its state before allowing more animals to be sent here,” said Anand Siva, animal welfare activist from Chembur.
Currently, there are 429 animals, including mammals, birds and reptiles, in the 53-acre park. The zoo has been expanded after seven acres from a defunct mill along its boundaries were handed over in 2013. Many of the new enclosures are being built in the new section.
The Rs150-crore plan to revamp the zoo was created by a foreign agency and a consultant was appointed after the layout plan was approved by the CZA in 2012.
The construction work for an Interpretation Centre building, asphalting of internal roads, restoration of heritage structures, a zoo hospital, an animal quarantine area, peripheral wall and service roads are underway. “While 30% of the complete project has been covered, the construction of an entry plaza that will house the ticketing area, shops and eateries is 40% complete,” said Tripathi.
He said the construction of new moats (ditches) around the enclosures will be avoided and the existing moats will only be modified as per the requirement of animals exhibited in it. In general, acrylic glass panels will be used at each enclosure.