Assam Zoo to set up breeding enclosures

Guwahati: Special breeding enclosures for some species will be set up in the Assam State Zoo which will soon have a dedicated centre for rescue, treatment and recovery of animals including bears and leopards.

Shielded from public view, the conservation and breeding enclosures are intended to act as safe and scientific zones for breeding of species.

The plan is to construct separate enclosures for conservation breeding programmes for species like black bucks and nilgais next year and schemes to promote an interactive face for visitors.

The project is part of an ambitious master plan, formulated last year, to turn the zoo-cum-botanical garden into one of the finest in the country.

Assam State Zoo Divisional Forest Officer Utpal Bora said the conservation breeding enclosures have been built for the endangered one-horned rhino and the golden langur.

"Pairing of rhinos in the conservation and breeding enclosure has been carried out and we hope to have some good news next year. Pairing of golden langurs will be done soon," he said.

On the agenda next year is the construction of similar enclosures for breeding of black bucks and nilgais, to be followed by one for mountain goats, he said.

Bora says an area has been earmarked in the zoo to set up a dedicated rescue centre for animals in distress and the authorities are looking for gaining special expertise in the rescue and treatment of bears and leopards.

The Assam State Zoo is among the seven largest in the country in terms of area, number of species, number of endangered species and visitor footfalls.

Over the next few years, the existing 62 enclosures will be refurbished.

"While all kinds of rescued animals are treated in the zoo, the Central Zoo Authority has proposed that we should have a dedicated centre for this," Bora said.

He said that a provision would be made to keep the animals, which are not in a position to be released back into the wild, in the rescue centre permanently.

Bora said a pair each of sloth bear and bonnet macaques would arrive in the zoo in January as part of an exchange tie-up with the Vishakhapatnam Zoo.

A pair of Himalayan black deer would be sent from here in return.

The Assam State Zoo, spread across 175 hectare, has over 900 animals, birds and reptiles, belonging to a total of 121 species.

While the zoo has a wide range of species, the number of visitors is comparatively less.

"Unlike some other zoos, the Guwahati Zoo is not part of any tourist circuit. We receive around 6-7 lakh visitors a year which is far less than the potential for a city like Guwahati," Bora said.

He said that the authorities are hopeful that with the first phase of the master plan in place, the number of visitors would double in the next two years.

"To make a visit here more interesting, we are also working on a nature interpretation centre with audio-visuals where visitors would be able to interact with experts," Bora said.

In addition, the zoo is also looking to take up rock-climbing expeditions in the hills around it.