Family planning programme has not been a success in a small pocket of Kolkata but the authorities have spotted a blessing in disguise in the rising numbers.
The headcount of giraffes, zebras, macaws, barking deer and marmosets in Alipore Zoo have increased manifold in the past three years.
The number of giraffes has shot up to 8 while there are seven zebras. The barking deer enclosure as well as the macaws enclosure house 25 members. The numbers of several other inmates is also healthy.
With every new arrival, the mood at the Alipore address, which often criticized in the past for shabby treatment of the inmates, turns celebratory.
“The high numbers of such animals give us leverage to bargain for some good animals with other zoos. We are already in talks with several zoos in the country and abroad to bring in some new attractions,” said a member of the State Zoo Authority.
In the world of zoos, animals are exchanged with each other.
The well-populated enclosures at the onset of the peak season also mean that the visitors will be regaled. “The children take keen interest in big animals like giraffe and zebra,” said the official.
Captive breeding of macaws is rarely heard off in Indian zoos. The increase in the population of zebras and giraffes is also an achievement in itself because both these species aren’t found in the wild anywhere in India.
Improvement in the healthcare and general upkeep of the animals are mainly responsible for the success of the captive breeding programme.
Former zoo vet, DN Banerjee, said all animals were being vaccinated and de-wormed at the recommended intervals. “We also give them vitamins and medicines to improve their immunity and fertility.”
Of late even lady luck has smiled upon the Alipore Zoo. It has received by accident several animals that it required to ramp up its enclosures for the visitors. The zoo received the custody of three young chimpanzees that were seized from traffickers in 2014.
“Babu, the inmate was getting old and we were looking for a young chimpanzee since they are one of our biggest attractions. None of the zoo could spare us one and just as when we had given up all hope, we got not one but three,” said former director KL Ghosh.
Last year, the zoo had to let go of three adult elephants because the size of their enclosure didn’t conform to the norms fixed by the Central Zoo Authority. But two young elephants were brought in from north Bengal.
While the increase in numbers is seen as an achievement in terms of providing wildlife species a congenial captive environment, the zoo authorities are worried about not being able to maintain the comfort factor that the animals need.
At 45 acres, the Alipore Zoo which is home to over 1250 animals is one of the smallest zoos in the country. Animal rights activists have often criticized how inmates are kept in cramped enclosures. “The enclosures of animals like zebra and giraffe are severely inadequate. These are huge animals and require a sprawling space,” said a former official of State Zoo Authority.
D N Banerjee, the former zoo vet, said all inmates were being vaccinated and de-wormed at the recommended intervals which had led to the overall improvement in the health of the country. “We administer health supplements to the inmates. Extra care is taken about their diet too.”
What zoo needs
* Young and virile Royal Bengal Tigers for the captive breeding programme. Vishal, the young white tiger, is too shy of female companions
* A female rhinoceros to balance the skewed gender ratio. Zoo already has two male rhinoceros
* Jaguar. The lone feline died two years ago due to prolonged illness and old age
* Kangaroos. The four kangaroos that arrived from Czech republic in 2011 have all died. Joey that was born in India also died last month.