Is zoo gazing what it takes to raise your spirits? Our specialists give us a road map of some of the best zoos and national parks around. By Rashmi Rajagopal
When four zebras arrived from Israel at the popular Mysore zoo in April, they were treated as celebrities. And last week, amid much enthusiasm, the Maharani of Mysore, Pramoda Devi Wadiyar christened them Dazzle, Dawn, Sudheer and Riddhi — from among 350 names sent in by animal lovers from all over the state. An indication perhaps, that zoos have a strong following of enthusiasts who are keen to spend quality time with their favourite species. In complete agreement are Mumbai-based vet couple Yuvraj Kaginkar and Madhurita Gupta, who have been channeling their passion for animals into a dream — Myvets, a company that offers veterinary services, healthcare, planning and design solutions for zoos across the country. We catch up with them as they are in the midst of planning an aviary for exotic and endangered birds in Greater Noida, and a 500-acre zoo and safari park in Jammu.
The back story
My vets Integrated Solution Private Limited started off small — `10 lakhs investment, two staff members and a whole lot of passion. Five years later, they have 30 staffers and their services include designing and master planning of zoos and safari parks, eco-tourism initiatives, aviary and exotic species specialisation, and domestic and farm animal management. They also run Myvets4pets, a full-fledged pet hospital in Khargar, Navi Mumbai. Yuvraj started Myvets since he was appalled by ‘the lack of organised healthcare, hygiene and issues’ that plagued zoos across India. “Domesticated and zoo animals were administered the same treatment. That does not work. Zoos need trained administrators and specialists who know how to care for wild animals and who can put in facilities on par with international standards,” he says. “We launched Myvets and offered zoo management services and a state-of-the-art veterinary facility, both of which were lacking in a big way in India,” says Gupta, who holds a masters in veterinary science from The University of East London, UK.
On the job
“We had quite an encounter with an enraged chimp at the Amby Valley mini zoo when we had to collect a routine blood sample. And applying eye ointment to a crocodile is a bit daunting even for an experienced vet, so is getting a langur to stop using its sutured stomach to store peanuts,” laughs the couple who also provide their services free of cost to zoos that are on the verge of shutting down.
Top 3 World Zoos
Singapore Zoo, Singapore
Why We’re Wild About It: The Singapore Zoo is known for making great strides in the naturalistic zoo approach. View animals like sun bear and sungei buaya on elevated platforms to get a closer look at them or head to the underwater galleries for a look at their selection of otters or pygmy hippos. The night safari, an open air zoo adjacent to the main zoo that does not resort to artificially reversing day-night cycles allows visitors to observe the nocturnal activities of animals through walking tours or tram rides. Sandwiched in between is the river safari through which one can explore the wild through artificial rivers.
Entry: Singapore Zoo (Rs. 1,300 for adults, Rs. 850 for kids, approximately), Night Safari (Rs. 1,840 for adults,Rs. 1,180 for kids, approximately), River Safari (Rs. 235 for adults, Rs. 150 for kids, approximately)
Whipsnade Zoo, Whipsnade, England
Why We’re Wild About It: Whipsnade Zoo serves as great retirement home for rescued animals, or as temporary housing for other zoos when over-crowded. Set amidst 600 acres in the Bedfordshire countryside, it is only a 20-minute train ride from London and houses exotic species like lemurs, sea lions and moose. A highlight here is the opportunity of being a keeper for a day. Sign up for this feature and get up close and personal with some of the most exotic animals and get an insight into the daily routine of their full-time keepers.
Entry: Rs. 2,280 for adults, Rs. 1,680 for kids
Toronto Zoo, Canada
Why We’re Wild About It: The zoo takes part in varying animal conservation efforts including rescuing polar bears. It is divided into seven zones: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. The Discovery Zone features an interactive children’s wildlife experience in the Kids’ Zoo and a Splash Island, a two-acre area where kids get to play in the water and also a Waterside Theatre where bird and animal shows are held regularly. Here you will find species like the European reindeer, aba aba and Bennett’s wallaby and the axolotl.
Entry: May to Oct: Rs. 1,500 for adults, Rs. 917 for kids (approximately), November to April: Rs. 1,247 for adults, Rs. 757 for kids (approximately)
Charting the Indian ‘zoo’scape
In top form
Nandankanan Zoological Park, Bhubaneshwar
With a line-up of king cobras, white tiger, Asiatic lions, sangals, lion-tailed macaques, black panthers, sloth bears, soft shelled turtles, crocodiles and giant monitor lizards, this popular zoo heads the list and is set in the Chandaka forest. The park includes the scenic 134-acre Kanjia Lake. And is a zoo and a botanical garden rolled into one.
Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Garden, Mysore
One of the oldest and most popular zoos in South India, it is located at the base of the Chamundi Hills and is home to giraffes, zebras, elephants, baboons and the elusive, white rhinoceros. Within the premises is the Karanji Lake that houses an artificial island which serves as a bird sanctuary for a wide variety of exotic birds.
National Zoological Park, New Delhi
It is home to about 1,350 animals representing almost 130 species from around the world. The sprawling space boasts of housing the royal Bengal white tiger, Indian civet, Indian porcupine, African elephant and scarlet macaw.
Sanjay Gandhi Botanical and Zoological Garden, Patna
An exotic range of wild animals like rhinoceros, hippopotamus, Himalayan bear, zebra, and crocodile call the Patna zoo their home. Initially set up as a botanical garden, the park was opened to the public as a zoo in 1973, and is one of the largest zoos in South Asia. Take a free morning walk in the park from 5 am to 7.45 am, if you’d like to start your day on an exciting note.
Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad
The barking deer, chimpanzee, hyena and royal Bengal tiger roam across this, one of the three most visited destinations in Hyderabad that artificially reverses day and night for nocturnal animals to keep them active during the day.
Off the beaten track
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling
Owing to it’s cooler climes, the park houses a breeding centre for endangered species like snow leopards and red pandas brought in from the Cologne, Madrid and Rotterdam Zoos. They also aid in the breeding of exotic animals like Himalayan tahr, blue sheep, Himalayan monal, grey peacock pheasant, Himalayan salamander, blood pheasant and satyr tragopan.
Parassinkkadavu Snake Park, Kannur
Set up mainly for the preservation and conservation of snakes that are slowly becoming extinct, you’ll find spectacled cobra, king cobra, Russell’s viper, krait, pythons and more slithery reptiles here. Head here for live shows where trained personnel show off their skills by playing and interacting with snakes while attempting to educate the gathering about misconceptions and fears regarding the species.
Andaman Mini Zoo, Port Blair
Boasting inhabitants like Nicobar pigeons, emerald dove, megapode, Andaman cuckoos, Nicobar cuckoos that are endemic to the islands, this is a great stop for bird lovers looking to do some exotic bird-spotting. Also housed here are salt water crocodiles.
Pt. GB Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital
A breath-taking location about 7,000 feet above sea level, brace yourself for an impressive line up of residents like the Tibetan wolf, leopard cat, Himalayan bear, kalij pheasant, lady amherst pheasant, rose ringed parakeet, golden pheasant and red jungle fowl. Nature lovers will also be in for a treat with flaura and fauna that includes different species of oaks and cypresses.
In the pipeline
Thrissur Zoological Park, Kerala
Owing to space constraints, the zoo will soon move to Puthur, a nearby village where the space allocated is 200 acres, a huge change from the paltry 13 acres that’s the current area. Look forward to a state-of-the-art facility with exotic pink flamingos, mithuns and purple herons.
Jammu Zoological Park and Safari
This is another zoo that’s relocating to a bigger address – from Manda to Khanpur. Kaginkar and team are involved in the project and are designing it such thatww it meets international standards. Expect cageless enclosures, a children’s park, aquarium and an invertebrate conservation centre.