The emu enclosure draws visitors at Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ooh and aah again over the peacock’s majestic tail or the pheasant’s beauty spots. After a four-months-plus hiatus, visitors at Ranchi’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park from Tuesday morning will get to view its winged beauties once more.
“The decision to reopen the aviary came from forest headquarters yesterday. Visitors to our zoo are watching the birds from today,” zoo director P.K. Verma told The Telegraph.
The aviary, with around 100 bird species — the Australian wingless wonder emu and the snow-white mute swan with a striking orange bill, among others — was kept isolated from public view after a mysterious bird flu scare hit the capital, Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Hazaribagh. Infected by a “new bird flu strain”, house crows started dying in large numbers across Jharkhand, raising fears of a widespread poultry attack. According to National Institute of Virology, Pune, that studied samples, the strain belongs to Clade 188.8.131.52 while the more familiar H5N1 strain belongs to Clade 2.2.
“Winged creatures are prone to virus threats. As a precaution, the forest department issued a blanket ban to all zoos and national parks to close aviaries,” said Verma.
But the threat, believe officials, is safely past. The bird flu threat did not affect any inmate of the aviary, maintained Birsa zoo officials.
“That is due to our consistent monitoring and complete dedication shown by our staff to maintain cleanliness and hygiene inside the aviary premises. The birds underwent regular check-ups, cages were sanitised everyday and diet was kept safe,” Verma said.
As an afterthought, he added that it was “a big challenge” but worth it. “We succeeded in keeping the birds safe and healthy,” he said.
Though weekday footfall is less than in weekends, a ripple of excitement ran through the people at the main entrance when told that the aviary was re-opening.
“We last came to the zoo on New Year, when the aviary was closed. My grandson was really disappointed. We came today after a pretty long gap to get this great news,” said Nagesh Munda, a retired government employee and Booty resident.
Like Munda, other visitors kept thronging the aviary on Day One.
“The bird section is one of the best places to visit in this zoo. The main aviary has scenic beauty. But most important, it is a pleasure watching the birds and refreshing to hear their chirps,” said visitor Sunita Singh, who came with her friends.