Visitors will no longer have to peek through railings and cages to catch a glimpse of the Royal Bengal tiger at the Alipore Zoo.
A tiger room with a view and most of the top-draw birds under one dome-shaped roof — Alipore Zoo will add new feathers to its wings before the visitors roar in this winter.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled a glass enclosure for tiger viewing at the zoo and an aviary, both meant to give the inhabitants a better place to stay and enable visitors to see them clearly. Team M3.tv gets you the inside story.
The tiger enclosure
Spread over 33,600 sq ft, the enclosure with a glass facade has been built next to the existing tiger facility.
The idea has been to produce a natural tiger habitat at the zoo and the authorities have successfully recreated the details, including a mound in the open space of the cage and a waterfall. Three pumps will feed the fall and a purifier will keep the water clean.
What is going to leave a long-lasting pugmark on every visitor’s heart is a clear view of the tigers through a giant glass wall next to a platform. “It will be like watching a movie in a theatre. Kids can see without any obstacle the big cats frolicking in the winter sun. Parents will not have to hold their kids up above their shoulders to show them the tigers,” said zoo director Kanai Lal Ghosh.
Made of 39 mm thick toughened glass, the 70 ft long and 21 ft deep gallery encircling the cage will muffle outside noise for the tigers. “We get more than 50,000 visitors a day during the winter months. Naturally, the sound barrier crosses the limit too. The glass wall will act as a sound barrier and minimal noise can reach the big cats. This will help them remain calm,” Ghosh said.
This enclosure is the first of its kind in India. No other zoo has such elaborate arrangements for a tiger enclosure. That apart, five night shelters have also been arranged for the Bengal tigers to feel more “at home”. The new cage doesn’t have a concrete floor, unlike the existing ones. “There’s an earthy feel to it with shrubs and plants in and around the enclosure. The tigers will love it,” he added.
The zoo authorities have planned to test the glass enclosure by putting one tiger initially. “Tigers are territorial. They prefer staying alone. We will gradually increase the number of tigers in the enclosure if the animals get along fine,” an official said.
Another long-term plan is to turn the all the tiger cages into glass homes. Until then, the white tiger’s open-air enclosure and the other cages will remain open to the public.
The renovated aviary
Most of the 50 species of birds in the zoo will check into a 720sq-metre circular aviary with a dome-shaped top. The height at the centre of the dome is about 35 ft. The birds will have the elephants as neighbours.
The zoo authorities plan is to display almost all the birds on the visitors’ check list, including spoonbills, macaws, cranes, pelicans, ibises, painted storks and pea fowls. These are big draws at the zoo, as per the management.
“The idea is to bring most of our birds under one roof. The visitors will no longer have to go cage-hopping to catch a glimpse of their favourite birds,” an official said. “Having all the birds in one place will help people, especially children, distinguish the species,” Ghosh told Team M3.tv.
The authorities hoped that the design of the aviary — circular and open — would cut overcrowding and reduce noise. A mesh will prevent visitors from throwing “food or other harmful projectiles” at the birds.
Animal adoption at the zoo
Tigers, lions, elephants, zebras and macaws are up for ‘grabs’ at the Alipore Zoological Gardens, as the authorities have received an overwhelming response to a scheme for animal adoption, launched very recently by the authorities.
Seven tigers, two lions, two elephants, a rhinoceros, a jaguar, a chimpanzee, zebras and a number of birds like macaw and peacock have already been adopted. Here’s a complete list of animals that have been adopted by various business houses as well as private citizens of Kolkata:
Two more schemes
In an attempt to cast its net wide and involve more people with the activities of the zoo — particularly those who cannot spend huge sums of money for adopting animals — the authorities have also initiated two other schemes “Friends of the Zoo” and “Zoo Volunteers.”
“As ‘Friends of the Zoo’, people can get involved by paying small annual fees. For ‘Zoo Volunteers’, one needs to spare some time to participate in the activities of the zoo,” said B.R. Sharma, Member-Secretary of the State’s Zoo Authority.
The annual fee for adopting one of the ‘Big Five’ is steep. It has been fixed at Rs. 1.5 lakh annually for a lion, a tiger, an elephant, or a rhino.
For jaguars and leopards, the fee is Rs. 50,000.
However, the amount is still way below what is required to maintain the creatures. It costs about Rs. 5 lakh annually to keep a tiger, it was learnt.
Entry is free for these ‘foster parents.’