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Zoo, an old-age home for animals

Most inmates of the Byculla zoo have crossed their average expected life span. In the last one year, a bear, a blackbuck and a hippopotamus have died because of old age.

mumbai Updated: May 24, 2010 01:46 IST
Bhavika Jain

Most inmates of the Byculla zoo have crossed their average expected life span. In the last one year, a bear, a blackbuck and a hippopotamus have died because of old age.

Anita, the pure Asiatic breed lioness, is 22-years-old and has crossed the expected lifespan of 20 years. Jamuna the Himalayan bear whose mate Mangal died this month is 35 years old, which is the average life span for a bear. The two striped hyenas are 20 years old, leaving them five years to touch the end of their lifespan.

“Animals who have surpassed their lifespan often fall ill,” said a zoo official. The two hyenashyenas keep themselves inside their cave and seldom come out.

The zoo that came into place in 1862 is one of the country’s oldest zoos spread over 52 acres. It houses 189 mammals of 20 species, 449 birds of 38 species and 43 reptiles of 9 species. No new animal can be brought to the zoo, according to a high court order following a PIL filed by People for Ethical Treatment to Animals in October 2004.

The order says no new animal can be brought till the conditions of the enclosures improve. “This is likely to happen only after the zoo makeover,” said A. Ajankar, director of the zoo.

The Rs 433-crore makeover is stuck at the permission stage as the heritage committee is not happy with the current plan.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner Garden and Zoo, Chandrashekhar Rokde said, “Visitors too complain about ageing animals. But this is a problem with most zoos.”

Shiva, the rhinoceros who is 32 years old, (his lifespan is between 35-40 years) has been waiting for a mate, but until the makeover is complete he can’t have one. There are 78 black bucks and 60 per cent of them are older than 12 years, their life span is between 12 and 15 years.

The two elephants Laxmi and Anarkali are also ageing. The authorities are planning to loan a few barking deer and black bucks to the Katraj zoo in Pune for breeding. “Once the new zoo is ready, their offspring can be brought back,” added Anjankar.