With the death of Jimmy the lioness, Byculla zoo has lost its biggest star attraction in an already depleted animal population.
Visitors to the zoo will have to wait a while before the lack of animals is addressed as part of the ambitious zoo revamp. Zoo officials realise that visitors are most excited to see big cats and will include Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers and leopards to the zoo under the revamp plan.
While the zoo used to house all species of the big cats, except the Cheetah, they have all died in the last decade. The Bengal tiger and the leopard died in 2006, followed by Amar the lion in 2010. Anita, the 22-year old pure Asiatic lioness died in 2012.
Officials have admitted that the deaths has had an impact on the crowds. “Children want to see the big cats. But, despite the absence of the cats, we have an average of 18,000 to 20,000 daily visitors on holidays,” said Anil Paranjape, education officer at the zoo.
“To add a new dimension to the zoo experience, we are building an interpretation centre. The two-storey structure will have a 3-dimensional theatre and interactive wildlife exhibits,” Paranjape added.
At present, three hippopotamus’, two elephants, two hyenas, seven crocodiles, two alligators and one Himalayan bear still draw in crowds of around 6,000 a day.
Of these animals, the zoo wants to move out aged and ailing pachyderms Laxmi and Anarkali, but have not been able to finding any takers for them. Besides the pachyderms. Other animals from the collection and all aquatic and ground birds will all be retained in the zoo revamp.
“We had written to authorities in Kerala and Chattisgarh to shift Laxmi, 57 and Anarkali, 51, but the process has stuck as of now. The Himalayan bear will be replaced by a sloth bear in the new look zoo,” said Ajay Anjankar, director, Veer Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo.