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Vol. XXVI No. 07, July 16-31, 2016

the Zoo Story… Part IV

Visitor friendly facilities

elephant-showerElephant Shower Bank.

Come summer, popular attraction is the Elephant Shower Bank. By 3 pm every evening, crowds gather to enjoy the frolicking of the elephants – Giri, Oriyan and Ashok under the artificially created shower amidst the trees in their area! Or to watch the gentle giants being fed with sugarcane, banana and ragi balls.

Rahman and Aysha, the giraffes who came from the Calcutta Zoo, peer benevolently into the neighbouring enclosure with a pair of zebras from the Alipore Zoo. Soundarya, a 16-year-old hippopotamus, nuzzles her little one gently. The Wild Ass arrived three years ago from Junagadh, and a herd of swamp deer from Lucknow! And from Mysore Zoo, the wallaby and the black swan last year. From Lucknow Zoo came the Golden Pheasant and Yellow and Blue Macaw who are also well settled and breeding comfortably. This year, the Underwater Weaving Gharial has been a popular attraction! Except in the case of the herds, all other animals are given special names by their keepers and the Chief Minister!

bird-parkThe Open Bird Park.

At the Open Bird Park over 1 hectare, 29 species are welcomed in by providing natural enrichment factors like nest boxes, dung heaps, ponds, termite mounds, ash pits and palm trees. A biologist confirms, “The idea is to attract birds from all around through enriching nest boxes, feed and fruiting trees. There can be as many as 200 barbets on the ficus tree inside !”

A venerable old adjutant stork spreads out his broad wings, as excited schoolkids squeal, “veyil kayudhu paar”! At the heronries, replicas of Vedanthangal and Kodikarai, daily nesting material is supplied during the season October to March. Colourful groundnuts, sunflower seeds, small millets, fruits vegetables are laid out by staff Manivannan and Pushpa for the 140 noisily chirping inmates of the Walkthrough Aviary. The AAZP boasts of the only naturally breeding ostrich (theekuyil) population in Indian zoos.

Inside the King Cobra House, its two 13-ft long inmates are in an almost evergreen forest setting – riverine environment with a water canal, a resting pot, leaf litter (being the only snake species that builds a nest!), temperature regulatory system, dripping water, tree perch, bushes all around and crevices for moulting. Menaka, their caretaker, remembers her earlier snake wards Diana, Charles and Elizabeth wistfully, they “actually seemed to respond to my calls. These are still getting used to me!” At the non-venomous snake enclosure with termite mounds amidst natural vegetation and canals, there’s a sign that reads: ‘Do not get disappointed. Snakes generally take feed in night.’

Over a 1000 sambar and spotted deer roam in the Deer Safari. ‘Beware of free ranging Deer and Snakes’, cautions a sign. All the 2000 kg fodder requirements for herbivores is raised on campus and is wholly organic.

In 2014, the Butterfly Park was created over 2.5 hectare, with the help of experts from the Peechi-based Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI). Surrounded by host plants and nectar gardens and interconnected by streams, fascinating butterfly behaviour like ‘gully bottoming’ can be observed at close quarters. Says Dr. Kamraj, wildlife biologist,“There are many brilliant exotic species along with our own native species!”

It is interesting to note that the earliest animal enclosures were arranged according to geographical distribution of the species. Then came the concept of Prey-Predator to simulate natural environment and ecological niches. The newest is the concept of Immersion Enclosures.

The only zoo in country to have entirely stainless steel barricades to help prevent rusting injury to animals, AAZP is also the one with the largest number of vehicles for visitors, 30 in all! Battery-operated cars at Rs 330 an hour, ferry visitors that seat upto five persons. Also available is a 15 seater at Rs 30 for each seat, Rs 10 for children. Cycles are provided for Rs 15 an hour.

At the exit end is the Forest Wildlife Museum with a herbarium, zoo rocks and forest seeds exhibits. The Zoo Interpretation Centre’s self-explanatory panels are strategically placed. The museum ‘with dismantled material from the old Corporation zoo’ that was established in 1990 is not open now.

(To be concluded)

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