Yesterday, this paper ran a report on the state of Jijamata Udyaan in Byculla, which is the city’s sad excuse for a zoo. The zoo, set amidst lush greenery, which is a rarity in Mumbai, and some stunning architecture, is certainly one of the worst zoos in the country. It has weary looking animals, thirsting for fresh water especially in summers when mercury levels zoom to unforgiving temperatures. The enclosure and water bowls need cleaning. The Byculla zoo or Rani Baug as the locals call it, is in dire need of renovation, rejuvenation and a shot in the arm to bring it at par with other zoos in the country, let alone the world.
One of the reasons for its condition is that red tape has mired all refurbishment plans. For years now, we have been hearing of some kind of master plan for the zoo, but it has not fructified yet.
A zoo is so much more than just a place where animals are kept. It is a tourist attraction for a city. It is iconic and symbolic to a city. It is a place for education and pleasure for children and animal lovers.
The location of the Mumbai zoo is brilliant as it is in the heart of the city, but officials have failed to capitalise on the many advantages the zoo has. Maybe, the Central Zoo Authority can look at a public-private partnership in order to ensure better upkeep and more funds. Corporates could infuse a new lease of life, into this tired place.
We need a vision and the will coupled with gumption to break out of certain constraints for the zoo to claim its rightful place in the Mumbai sun. As for sun, the zoo animals need water — and fast.