Mumbai: Byculla Zoo’s 15-year-old wait for expansion ends

Mumbai: The Veer Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo in Byculla is undergoing a major revamp and is set to induct new animals, improve infrastructure and change its image from a dying to a lively place. The zoo, also known as Rani chi Baug, in the recent past has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. However, the current three-phased revamp plan on completion, would change the image of the zoo.

Currently, the revamp process is in phase II and Mumbaikars can expect a pair of jackles, tigers, lions, hyenas, swamp deers and wolves in next three to six months. “We have acquired these animals from various zoos across India. The infrastructure for them is ready and we are in the final process of legalities,” said an official involved in the process.

Noticeably, the zoo has not got any new animal for more than 15 years and almost all animals in the zoo currently are captive breads. Furthermore, in phase III, import of animals like white lion, okapi, black jaguar, giraffe, zebra, ostrich, oryx, mandrill monkey, chimpanzee, emu, lesser flamingos and cheetah is on the cards.

At present, there are in all 344 animals in the zoo, of which 97 are mammals, 218 birds and 29 reptiles. The major highlights include animals like elephant, barking deer, sambar, spotted deer and hippos, and birds like military macaw, African grey parrot, Japanese crane, et al. But the major source of the attraction are the seven Latin American humboldt penguins, acquired from the South Korea’s Coax aquarium.

Reacting to a question on the non-acquisition of animals for more than 15 years, an official said, “Many non-governmental organisations and agencies had complained regarding deforestation during expansion of the zoo in the last decade. This had resulted in a halt for zoo expansion and acquisition of new animals, and the zoo lost its shine.”

However, with the Supreme Court order of upholding the expansion, the zoo is all set to expand its infrastructure and acquire new animals. The SC had upheld the Bombay High Court order on Mafatlal Industries handing over 27,284 square metres land to the BMC, next to the Zoo in 2018.

“We have raised 17 enclosures in the phase II and plan to raise 15 more in phase III”, an official said. According to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), unless the enclosures are ready, the animals cannot be acquired. “This was the major hurdle for past 15 years,” said the official.

Besides animals, expansion includes a recently inaugurated 3D theatre in association with the Animal Planet which will play select movies every day. Also, the zoo, in association with Rachana Sansad College, is building a theme-based landscape garden.animal conservation.

An official informed the Free Press Journal that there has been a rise in the revenue due to increase in the footfall in last two year. The credit for this goes to seven humboldt penguins imported in 2017. With the upcoming BMC budget of 2019, it would be interesting to see the allotment of the funds to the zoo during its expansion phase.

The grape wine has it that significant chunk would be allotted for acquisition of exotic animals, after the success story of penguins. However, there is a catch, the BMC budget would only be ratified after the Lok Sabha election results of 2019. So Mumbaikars will have to wait for another three months for the processes to start.

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