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Improved conditions in menagerie
- Calcutta zoo wins praise from central body for infrastructure and low death rate

Good news for Calcuttans who love to visit the zoo. The zoological garden in Alipore will not close down. It will also not be shifted from its present site because of its heritage value.

Though the Calcutta zoo has come in for much criticism, it has of late garnered praise from where it matters ' Central Zoo Authority (CZA), which looks after zoos across the country.

A two-member committee of CZA recently visited the city to evaluate the Alipore zoo and is 'happy' with what it has seen.

The zoo had reportedly approached the state government for creation of the post of a curator in 2002, in accordance with CZA guidelines. Nothing has come of it yet.

'We are more or less happy with the zoo's performance. It has definitely improved since the last time. It still has some constraints, like shortage of space, but it has implemented the majority of the recommendations made by the earlier CZA evaluation committee,' said A.T. Rao, retired professor of veterinary pathology in Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology, who is on the CZA committee this year, as he was the last time.

The committee is satisfied with the 'low death rate of animals as well as the treatment and infrastructure available in the zoo'.

M. Kamal Naidu, retired principal chief conservator of forests in Andhra Pradesh, is the other expert on the evaluation panel this year.

The committee visited Alipore zoo 'to evaluate the performance of the zoo for granting recognition required under Section 38H of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972'. The official stamp of the committee means an extension of recognition for the next two years.

'If the evaluation committee reports its dissatisfaction with any zoo's performance, the CZA usually penalises that particular zoo, initially by stopping grants and finally, perhaps, by derecognising it,' said Rao.

The committee has a list of 'suggestions' on how conditions can be improved here:

A state-of-the-art audio-visual information centre to be built in the old reptile house that is not in use any longer

The centre should have historical as well as ecological information relevant to the zoo

A cut in the number of inmates to allow more breathing space to those who will continue to live there

Retain the location. The zoo should not be shifted from its present location because of its historical importance

Improve the condition of the animal houses without disturbing their architecture.

Alipore zoo happens to be the only 'large' zoo in Bengal. The state government has been planning for the past few years to shift it to Sonarpur, on the southern fringes of the city.

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