Coco (left) and Jerry are two of the three latest additions to the penguin fold at the Byculla Zoo this year
With the number of penguins at the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo going from seven to 18 in a span of seven years, the zoo authorities are now planning to increase the space for them.
The zoo had initially acquired eight penguins, comprising three males and five females, from the Coex Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, in 2016. With three baby penguins being born this year, the number of penguins has now reached 18. The chicks were named Coco, Stella and Jerry.
The penguins were shifted to their current enclosure, which was built at a cost of Ã¢ÂÂ¹19 crore, on March 9, 2017. Though there is still space to accommodate the current lot, the zoo is already making plans for a larger space.
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"Our current exhibit has a 1750 square feet area and a 150 square feet accommodation space. As per the norms, the current aquarium can accommodate 25 penguins," said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo.
"We had plans to build an aquarium with at least 46 different species of aquatic flora and fauna, and expansion of the penguin aquarium behind the current one. The plan of the new aquarium is on hold, but we will put forth a proposal to expand the penguin aquarium," an official from the zoo added.
The zoo authorities are also prepared to engage in penguin exchanges with other zoos across the country. However, one of the key hurdles is the high cost of building and maintaining suitable enclosures for the penguins, which also require medical attention. In November 2021, the BMC extended the penguins' maintenance contract for an additional three years at a cost of Rs 15.26 crore.
As per Association of Zoos and Aquariums norms, the exhibit area per bird for first six penguins is eight square feet, and every bird needs four square feet of pool area. Each additional bird requires four square feet of land area and two square feet of pool area. In addition to that, every bird requires four square feet land area and three square feet pool area as short term holding area.