Z could have been Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery or another Tibetan Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang , both located in Kalimpong. But Z had to be India’s oldest formally stated zoological park – Zoological Garden, Kolkata.
Zoological Garden –
The Zoological Garden, Alipore (also informally called the Alipore Zoo or Calcutta Zoo)with an area of 46.5 acres opened as a zoo in 1876. It is famous as the home of the now expired Aldabra giant tortoise Adwaita, who lived for over 250 years till his death in 2006. It also houses one of the few captive breeding projects involving the Manipur brow-antlered deer. The Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and finds maximum footfall during winter season.
The zoo had its roots in a private menagerie established by the Governor General of India, Richard Wellesley in his summer home at Barrackpore as part of the Indian Natural History Project . The foundation of zoos in major cities around the world caused a growing thought among the British community in Kolkata that the menagerie should be upgraded to a formal zoological garden.
In 1873, the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Richard Temple formally proposed the formation of a zoo in Kolkata, and the Government allotted land based on the joint petition of the Asiatic Society and Agri-Horticultural Society.
The zoo was formally opened in Alipore – a posh Kolkata suburb and inaugurated on 1 January 1876 by Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. (Some reports place the inauguration on an alternate date of 27 December 1875). The initial stock consisted of the private menagerie of Carl Louis Schwendler. The initial collection consisted of the following animals: African buffalo, Zanzibar ram, Domestic sheep, Four-horned sheep, Hybrid Kashmiri goat, Indian antelope, Indian gazelle, Sambar deer, Spotted deer and Hog deer. The animals at Barrackpore Park were added to the collection over the first few months of 1886, significantly increasing its size. The zoo was made open to the public on 6 May 1876.
The park was initially run by an honorary managing committee which included Schwendler and the famous botanist George King. The first Indian superintendent of the zoo was Rai Bahadur Ram Brahma Sanyal, who did much to improve the standing of the Alipore Zoo and achieved good captive breeding success in an era when such initiatives were rarely heard of.
The zoo has around 1,266 individuals and about 108 species.
The zoo displays a large number of crowd-pulling megafauna, including the Royal Bengal tiger, African lion, Asiatic lion, jaguar, hippopotamus, great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, reticulated giraffe, Grant’s zebra, emu, and Indian elephant. Previously, other megafauna like the Panthera hybrids and the giant eland were also present.
The zoo sports a large collection of attractive birds, including some threatened species – large parrots including a number of macaw species, conures, lories and lorikeets; other large birds like touracos and hornbills; colourful game birds like the golden pheasant, Lady Amherst’s pheasantand Swinhoe’s pheasant and some large flightless birds like the emu, cassowary and ostrich.
The zoo is also home for winter migratory birds such as ducks,and sports a sizeable wetland inside the zoo grounds. Since the zoo is enveloped by urban settlements for miles, the zoo wetlands are the only resting spot for some of the birds and are a focus of conservationists in Kolkata.
Laid out on 46.5 acres of land, the Calcutta zoo has been unable to expand or modify its layout for over 50 years leading to a backdated plan. It contains a Reptile House (new), a Primate House, an Elephant House, and a Panther House which opens out onto the open air enclosures for the lions and tigers. It also boasts of a glass-walled enclosure for tigers, the first of its kind in India. A separate Children’s zoo is present, and the central water bodies inside the zoo grounds attracts migratory birds.
The Calcutta Aquarium lies across the street from the zoo, and is affiliated to the zoo.
Adoption Scheme –
An “Adopt an Animal” scheme began at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in August 2013 as a way to obtain funding for the zoo. Those who adopted receive tax benefits, are allowed to use photos of the animals in promotional materials, and get their name placed on a plaque at the animal’s enclosure.
Entry Details –
The Zoo remains closed to the visitors on every Thursday . However if any holiday falls on Thursday, the garden remain opens to the visitors on that day and the weekly closure is observed on the next available working day.
Entry fee is Rs. 10 for age group up to 5 years and Rs 30 for above 5 years.
Ticket counters of the zoo are opens from 09 – 00 a.m. to 04 -30 p.m. Garden opening Time is from 09-00 a.m. to 05-00 p.m.
The personal angle –
The concept of Zoo is not anymore about mere amusement, entertainment or exhibitionism but it has shifted the focus to scientific research, education and conservation.
The Kolkata Zoo is a great place to visit with kids. It is quite spread out and provides ample space to walk around. While there are a lot of stalls selling beverages, ice-cream and snacks, there are very few food counters. Thus it is advisable to carry food and water from home. However I would recommend to visit during weekdays of the winter season since the weekends, specially from 15 Dec to 1st week of January are always over crowded.
This brings us to the end of the A2Z challenge for this year. Hope you enjoyed reading and rummaging through A dollop of Bengal series as much as I enjoyed putting the pieces together.