ZOO CAGE OR PRISON CELL? The tiger should soon get more breathing space at Alipore zoo. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Alipore zoo is as much a horror house as its neighbour, Alipore Central jail.
The realisation has finally dawned on zoo officials, who have drawn up a master plan to build bigger enclosures for the inmates as part of the infrastructure upgrade programme.
“Some of the animals look like prisoners in cramped cages that have not been renovated in the past 50-60 years. We have drawn up a plan, approved by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), to upgrade the infrastructure for the inmates,” Raju Das, the director of Alipore Zoological Gardens, told Metro.
This is the first time since its inception in 1875 that the zoo — now spread across 45 acres, housing 1,270 birds, 231 mammals and 66 reptiles — will have a master plan for facility upgrade for its inmates.
“We have to build several structures on the premises to create enough space for the animals. Cages, providing all amenities, will be built considering the shape and size of the animals and their natural habitat. We have already designed four structures that will come up in the first phase,” said Das.
According to the master plan, the zoo would release some animals that are not rare in their natural habitat. “We will also breed animals to be released into the wild later.... We want the zoo to be used more for research than recreational purposes,” Das said.
An official said the CZA had suggested in 2004 that the Alipore zoo be shut down as it was not following the guidelines.
“The People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (Peta) brought to light the plight of the caged animals and requested the CZA to intervene two years ago. They had highlighted the cramped cages and deplorable condition in which the chimp, some birds and tigers were forced to live,” the official added.
On Sunday, the authorities had announced that visitors would not be allowed to enter the compound with food from October 1.
“The zoo is in a bad shape and it will take at least a couple of years to restore it. We won’t allow people to use the zoo as a picnic spot or a playground,” Das asserted. “Guards will be deployed in the pockets that are generally used as picnic spots.”
Zoo employees welcomed the proposed overhaul but said it should have come long ago. “It took the theft of eight Common Marmosets (seven of which have been recovered) to shake up the administration,” said one.