The much-delayed Rs150-crore Byculla zoo makeover planned by the municipal corporation is finally on track.
However, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has slashed the list of exotic animal species —those not found in India — that the municipal body wanted to house at the 53-acre zoo after the makeover.
The CZA has sent a final set of guidelines for the revamp of the around 150-year-old Veermata Jijabai Udyan to the municipal body and asked it to submit the plan for final approval. “We will re-work the plan to meet the guidelines and will send it back to the CZA for their final nod in a month's time,” said a civic official, on condition of anonymity due to protocol reasons.
In addition to the existing animals, the CZA has approved 18 new animal species found in India, including the hyena, Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, wolf, leopard and sloth bear, and five exotic ones — the zebra, humboldt penguin, jaguar, hippopotamus and emu — to be housed in the revamped zoo.
This means the Byculla zoo will not house exotic animal species such as cheetah, white rhino, flamingoes, kangaroo, orangutan, gibbon, african herbivore and wallaby — most of these animals were recommended by Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, a wildlife enthusiast.
“Having so many animals in the Byculla zoo is not advisable. Rather than congesting the zoo further, we advised them to house less species in spacious enclosures,” said a senior member of the technical committee of the CZA, on condition of anonymity.
Proposed in 2007, the zoo makeover plan had met stiff opposition from the heritage conservation committee and activists. But after the municipal body slashed the cost of the project, work finally begun.
Agreeing with concerns raised by the heritage committee, the CZA emphasised minimal use of concrete structures and stressed maintenance of open spaces and heritage structures on the zoo premises.
The 16-point guidelines were prepared based on a report submitted by the two-member expert committee of VB Sawarkar, former director of the Wildlife Institute of India, and Dr Erach Bharucha, a member of CZA, after they visited the zoo in September 2010.
The report suggested that the seven-acre plot obtained from Mafatlal Mills should be used to house excessive breeding species to maintain a viable sex ratio of the animals in the zoo.
“Manpower in the zoo is grossly inadequate and must be strengthened with the help of trained and motivated staff members as we embark on a project of international status,” said the four-page report.
The central agency also said that the enclosures and feeding pattern of the animals should be according to its guidelines and vacant enclosures should be merged to create spacious enclosures for the animals.