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Darjeeling zoo best in the country for animals, says survey

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VIVEK CHHETRI   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 10.03.08, 12:00 AM

Darjeeling, March 9: The Central Zoo Authority of India has adjudged Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling as the best zoo in the country.

“This is the first time that the central zoo authority has conducted such a survey and we are happy that ours has been selected as the best one in the country,” said A.K. Jha, the director of Darjeeling zoo.

The 1830-odd zoos across the country were judged on 41 parameters like mortality and breeding rates of the animals, standard of veterinary services, overall maintenance and success in various programmes including conservation of animals.

The survey was conducted over a period of three years. The Darjeeling zoo is the only zoo in the six districts of north Bengal.

“Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the first zoo in the country to have not only bred red pandas in captivity but also successfully released them in the wild. The success of this programme helped us a lot in bagging the best zoo award,” said Jha.

The Darjeeling zoo is currently conducting conservation programmes for not only red pandas, but also other endangered species like snow leopard, Tibetan wolf and Himalayan salamander.

Permission has also been granted to the Darjeeling zoo to start breeding programmes for seven more animals and birds. These include blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan monal, grey peacock pheasants, Himalayan blood pheasants and zatyr tragopan.

“We are hoping to set up a pheasantry (where all pheasants will be kept) at Deer Park in Dow Hill, Kurseong. The set-up will come up over an area of about 70 acres and we are currently working out the financial allocation,” said the director.

He added that the pheasantry in Kurseong should be functional by next year.

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park was also the first zoo in Bengal to introduce an animal adoption scheme. Under this scheme, individuals and corporate houses are allowed to adopt animals and birds, which will be raised at the zoo itself, by paying a certain amount.

The donation is exempted from income tax.

Certificates of adoption were also issued today and many of the individuals said they wanted to use the zoo’s expertise in conservation of animals in the wild.

“We are looking to take experts from the Darjeeling zoo to villages in Senchel, Varshey and Neora sanctuaries so that the local people can be encouraged to save the fauna of the region. We are planning to incorporate this aspect in our tourism policy so that the local economy is sustained by preserving the wild,” said Raj Basu, the founder of Help Tourism, who has also adopted a pair of red pandas at the Darjeeling zoo.

Basu and his Siliguri-based tourism agency wants to create a red-panda trail in the Neora valley.

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