You will not be able to see the seven Humbolt penguins — the first in India — at the Byculla zoo by the end of this year. Reason: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has extended the deadline by another 15 days — from December 15 to December 30 — to build the enclosure for the penguins. The extension comes after the contractor requested for it.
The delay comes as a blow to the ruling Shiv Sena which was hoping to showcase the penguins as an achievement ahead of the upcoming civic polls.
The decision to keep penguins for exhibition in the Byculla zoo itself has been contentious with activists and many citizens slamming the move as half-baked and a disaster for the birds. Their concerns were not unfounded as one of the eight penguins died in quarantine.
If the civic sources are to be believed, another 40% of the work on the enclosures is pending before the penguins can be exhibited. The completion of enclosure is likely to take another month and thus another extension is likely, revealed civic officials. The BMC is yet to procure chillers and a flexi-glass for the penguin exhibit, and after its arrival the installation will take another few days.
Besides, an acrylic glass is also being imported for the viewing area. Neither the glass, nor the chillers have reached the zoo yet. The penguin exhibit will consist of their habitat area, a water body, feeding areas that will be fully air conditioned. As the Shiv Sena wants to inaugurate its pet project before the code of conduct kicks in, the arrival of the material and the installation work is likely to be fast tracked.
Code of conduct is likely to start from January and the completion of enclosure work is unlikely to be completed before that. “The work is likely to be completed before elections but in that case we will have to inaugurate the exhibit without political interference as code of conduct is likely to start early January,” said one of the civic officials on request of anonymity.
“We have given an extension of 15 days to the contractors. We are expecting the chillers in a couple of days and the glass in a week. The arrival of the material was delayed as it came via sea-route and thus the schedule was disturbed. Once the arrival is done installation is another 15 days work. We have instructed the contractor to stick to his deadline of December 30,” said a senior civic official from associated with the construction work.
Sandeep Deshpande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena group leader at BMC, said, “More than 50% work is remaining. If the civic body still inaugurates the exhibit it will only be to woo the ruling party that got these penguins here and are influencing the civic body to keep them here despite the death of one baby penguin.”
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s plan to bring Humboldt penguins to Byculla zoo was met with doubts
Activists raised issues over getting penguins to the city from South Korea only to woo Thackeray on his birthday despite incomplete quarantine facility. They demanded that the birds be sent back.
The doubts further increased towards management of zoo authorities after Dory’s death.
Dory was one of the eight penguins and had died of bacterial infection. This further strengthened activists’ demand to send these flightless birds back but the Sena’s ambitious project showed no signs of being rolled back.
After receiving serious criticism towards contractor’s laxity, the civic body terminated the contract of working on other enclosures and only continued his services for completing the work on penguins enclosure, which also has been delayed.