Experts who have mapped the bio-diversity of the city’s only zoo have concluded that the civic body’s current makeover plan for it will mean doom for its existing green cover.
A five-month study conducted by a committee of six taxonomists, under the guidance of botanist Dr Marselin Almeida, have shown that the 53-acre compound of the Byculla zoo has 3,213 trees belonging to 57 families and 285 species.
Of these, 30 species of trees are listed as rare and endangered under different levels of vulnerability, in the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list.
Also, 87 species have been tagged as locally rare, while 39 have been termed ‘very rare’ in list.
Litsea Fernandesii Almeida, a variety of tree that was found in quarries in Malad, was found during the survey. It is among five species that are not found anywhere else in the city.
The civic makeover plan envisions replicating the animals’ natural habitats and bringing animals from Australia, South Africa and other Asian countries to the zoo.
It has been stuck with the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee for more than two years.
The team used a global positioning system to superimpose the various trees within the premise on the current makeover plan to see how many trees fall within the enclosure.
“We found that at least 1,000 trees, which is one third of the total, will fall inside the enclosures. This will make these trees out of reach for the public,” said Almeida.
For the first time, a census of the herbs and scrubs was also conducted and it found that there were 843 species of them in the zoo.
“We have sent the report of members of the Central Zoo Authority and are now waiting for their reply,” said Anil Anjankar, director of the Byculla zoo.
“A new zoo of international standards can be set up in the suburbs on a larger plot, but the botanical garden must be preserved,” the report said.
The report backs claims made by a group of activists opposing the Rs 433-crore makeover plan. They argue that the plan neglects the botanical garden, which was established in 1861.
The zoo itself opened a year later and is one of the oldest in the country. It houses 189 mammals across 20 species, 449 birds across 38 species and 43 reptiles across nine species.