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Exotic arrivals fuel Birsa zoo’s elite ambitions
- Nine pheasants, including the rare Himalayan Monal & Reeves’s, may earn biological park ‘big’ status

Ranchi, July 3: Call it a wingfall. Raids carried out by the forest department over the last month in the capital have yielded a rich harvest of rare birds for Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park — 101 of them — and half a dozen simians, brightening the zoo’s prospects of breaking into the big league.

Speaking about the park’s chances of winning a high category or elite zoo tag, director P.K. Verma said according to Central Zoo Authority (CZA) guidelines, a zoo with a minimum 75 species can apply for the status.

According to zoo officials, Thursday’s raids at Hi-Q International Academy in Bariatu added nine pheasants to their kitty. Of the nine, the Himalayan Monal and Reeves’s pheasants are considered extremely rare and no other zoo in Jharkhand or Bihar has them.

“Of all the varieties, Himalayan Monal and Reeves’s pheasants are the biggest prizes for the state,” said an elated Verma. “As these pheasants thrive at high altitudes, they are rarely found elsewhere. However, Tata Steel Zoological Park does have a pair of the Himalayan variety.”

This apart, an elite category zoo should have a holistic atmosphere for inmates to live in like spacious cages, adequate food, natural setting etc. Most importantly, animals should not be disturbed by human movement.

Verma said the zoo management had been working to ensure proper upkeep of the facility over the last couple of years, but the biggest drawback had been lack of diversity.

“Species like monkeys, deer and elephants are common. What makes a zoo stand out is the diversity of species. Increasing biodiversity is a challenge, as you have to procure species from different zoos under exchange programmes. Zoos that have rare species will never want to give their animals to anyone. Also, they have to be in excess so that they can be shared with others,” explained Verma.

Space is not a problem in capital’s facility. According to officials, they have ample space to accommodate the animals. Talking about the new guests, an official said all the captured monkeys are now under observation at a special rescue centre.

“We are releasing them one by one to our existing lot of monkeys so that they get along. If they quarrel, we put them back in the rescue cell. Monkeys are rowdy and operate in groups. So if we put the new and old ones together, chances are that the newcomers will get killed,” said a ranger monitoring the simians daily.

Birds are less problematic. “There is a huge enclosure where we already have half a dozen peacocks. The enclosure is like a small park with trees, streams, individual cages etc,” said the ranger.

The zoo is happy about the fact that recent raids have added to their list of species. “Last time we applied for a big zoo status, the CZA rejected our request because we had just 72 species. But now I think we stand a chance,” said Verma.

Besides three new species of birds, the zoo also received a monospectacled cobra, which forest officials recently discovered in the jungles of Hazaribagh. The officials maintained that this particular snake species was alien to Bihar and Jharkhand.

The CZA categorises zoos as mini, small, medium and big.

Birsa zoo is currently tagged a small zoo. Verma said that they have already applied for medium zoo status. “But if we qualify for big zoo category, it will automatically enhance our status in the country,” he said.

“It is like a comparison between developed and developing countries. Developed ones are always sought after. Similarly, if our zoo joins the big zoo category, it will garner more eyeballs. I’m not aware of financial benefits, but yes, other benefits like preference in animal exchange programmes, getting help from other zoos as and when required can be easily availed,” he added.

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