Column: Of London Zoo and Nandankanan

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: London zoo is a must-do for anyone visiting the city. Spread over 36 acres this oldest scientific zoo of the world houses some of the most exotic and endangered animal species. There are giant gorillas, okapis ( a cross between a giraffe and a zebra), sloths and gibbons. I saw a dragon for the first time in my life.

It is home to around 17,000 animals including penguins who are a treat to watch. It is amazing how they have maintained the zoo keeping it neat and clean while ensuring that animals have the feel of their natural habitat. There are areas where visitors can see animals without any barriers in between but touching or feeding them is a strict no-no. Zoo employees are everywhere and always on their toes. They are extremely polite and friendly but ensure that you don’t do anything that is against the rules.

I was fascinated by the aquarium and the reptile park. The area housing nocturnal animals is a huge attraction. There is also a slice of India here—the section where you can see the Gir lions from Gujrat. There is an effort to create the typical Indian or Gujarati ambience complete with auto-rickshaws.

The zoo holds special demonstrations where the keepers try to familiarise you with the habits of a wide range of animals. The demonstration at the penguin park is particularly enjoyable and you love to watch how the keepers feed fish to these flightless seabirds.

A tour of the zoo is not just an educational experience, it also helps you unwind and re-charge your batteries. The whole area has been landscaped beautifully with benches placed at regular intervals for visitors to relax and have snacks. There are restaurants and shops and a huge merry-go-round that is a hit with children.

Considering the huge crowds that it draws daily the zoo must be making a lot of money which it must to ensure its upkeep. It also sustains a sizeable work force that keeps the park going.

As I went around the place I was reminded of our own Nandankanan zoo which has a much more natural setting, having been carved out of Chandaka-Dampara forest. But maintenance of the park situated in the backyard of our state capital leaves much to be desired. Over the years it has seen several animal casualties, the most recent being the death of four elephants who fell victim to the herpes virus.

The zoo was also in news a few years ago when a dozen tigers succumbed to the trypanosomiasis epidemic triggered by poor maintenance. Nandankanan definitely needs better management and better experts to take care of it.

The park remains a major tourist attraction and also a source of income for the state government. But it could do much better with a little more effort. The authorities at Nandankanan have a lot to learn from their counterparts in the London zoo which is among the best in the world.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)