Eight Humboldt penguins reached the Byculla zoo from Seoul, South Korea, in the wee hours of Tuesday, bringing the civic body’s Rs2.57-crore ambitious plan to reality.
The Humboldt penguin is a south American species found in cold climate of coastal Peru and Chile.
Officials from the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo said the three male, three female and two female baby Humboldt penguins reached the zoo around 4.30am. They reached the Mumbai international airport at midnight. The penguins were accompanied by a caretaker who will also train the zoo staff during the next three months.
Officials said the penguins will be quarantined in a specially designed secluded space for a minimum of three months. The quarantined enclosure has been designed as per the climatic conditions where they are found, to make it easy for them to acclimatize to the change in location. These enclosures and quarantine have temperature controlled environment of 4-24 degrees Celsius.
Watch: Humboldt penguins being transported from a refrigerated van to their quarantine in Byculla zoo
Even as the penguins have arrived, visitors to the city zoo won’t be able to see them before November, as a majority of the work on the enclosure is yet to be completed.
This is first time in India penguins will be exhibited in zoo, said civic officials.
Sudhir Naik, deputy municipal commissioner, in charge of this project, confirmed the arrival of penguins. He said, “The penguins will be kept in a secluded area where they will not come in contact with any one. The caretaker, accompanying the penguins will be handling them with utmost care.”
While the quarantined space measures 250sqft , the exhibition area will be spread across an area of 1,550 sqft. The temporary structure will be a replica of the enclosure that will house the penguins, later this year.
Animal lover and activist Anand Shiva, who is objecting to the move, said, “We are shocked and surprised to hear this. The enclosures are not ready and the staff, too, is not trained to handle the penguins. How can they take such a risk without any preparation? The penguins need a different habitat.”
Shiva has challenged the zoo authorities to an open discussion on the issue, adding he would continue to protest against it.
As part of the zoo modernization plan, the Shiv Sena-led civic body announced the introduction of the penguins to the zoo after the 2012 civic elections. The party’s top leadership has been closely monitoring the construction of the zoo and other formalities to bring the penguins, keeping in mind the upcoming civic elections. In the past two months, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray visited the zoo thrice to check the progress of work.
An official from the zoo said, “Penguins prefer three varieties of fish including Mackerel, Anchovies and Herrings, and will cumulatively need 7-8 kg of fish daily . The contractor has created a kitchen facility close to the quarantined section from where the maintenance staff can provide the food easily on a regular basis.”
The civic body has also planned to get biologists to train the train zoo staff.
The BMC has appointed three separate firms for the project. An Australian agency called Oceanis has been given responsibility of taking care of penguins. Two other agencies-- SIVAT, a US-based company, and Hindustan Construction Company-- are designing and constructing the enclosure. After the BMC’s contract with the three firms expires in 2021, the zoo staff will take care of the penguins.