No animals, but crowds continue to flock Byculla Zoo

Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 11:58 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Visitors to Byculla Zoo left disappointed as they are currently being shown only birds and trees' despite shelling out Rs 50

A signboard that mentions the displayed animals, Some of which are no longer there
A signboard that mentions the displayed animals, Some of which are no longer there

A zoo without animals – that is what the Veer Mata Jijabai Udyan or the Byculla Zoo is right now. With the authorities undertaking massive renovation work of the place, most animals here have been off display for months, upsetting thousands of visitors to the place this holiday season. To add insult to injury, a board put up at the entrance boasts that 19 species are on display at the zoo.

Yet, hardly any of these are visible inside. That's not all, the board is also placed in such a way that it is almost invisible to visitors. The board stating the names of the animals on display is strategically placed facing away from the ticket counter. While all the birds named on it are found inside their enclosures, mammals and reptiles are missing. The emu and hyena are among them, so are the ghariyal and crocodile.

An empty enclosur
An empty enclosure

With the number of visitors at the zoo tripling in the holiday season, most have been leaving disheartened with no animals to view inside. The ticket prices remain steep though at R50 per adult and Rs25 per child despite the absence of animals. When mid-day visited the premises on a humid Tuesday afternoon, there was a serpentine double-line at the ticket counter. A common complaint among visitors is that if there are no animals on display, then the ticket prices should be slashed.

Empty cages with doors ajar

As soon as one enters the premises, there is a board with seven arrows, each accompanied by the names of animals and the direction in which they can be found. Of these, three names have been covered up with scotch tape. The Emu and Hyena names have not been covered though despite them being absent.

One filled with construction material
One filled with construction material

The Rhesus and Bonnet Monkey enclosure a little up ahead lies empty with the door ajar. The Ghariyal and Crocodile pond remains empty too with people waiting patiently in the hope that they will emerge. There is no lion, tiger or leopard available to view either. The enclosure for Barking Deer is empty too. This leaves visitors with a handful of birds to view, two hippos, and some deer. And the star attraction of the zoo — the Humbolt penguins.

More machinery, fewer animals

What seems to put off the mood at Byculla zoo further is the presence of heavy machinery and drilling equipment lying all over the place. Families have to walk past heaps of iron rods, stacks of debris and jump across piles of leaves to move around in the zoo.

There are long queues at the entrace, while the enclosures at the zoo remain empty
There are long queues at the entrace, while the enclosures at the zoo remain empty

Sunil Naik, who visited the zoo on Tuesday along with his 10-year-old daughter Riddhi, said, "I had come exactly a year ago with my daughter on Diwali, and even at that time, there were not many animals to see. I thought that maybe this time it will be different, but the situation is pretty much the same, rather worse." He added: "It doesn't make sense to pay R50 at the entrance. Had I known that there are only birds and trees here, I wouldn't have entered."

Keerti More who was at the zoo with her friends said: "What kind of a zoo doesn't have lions or tigers or any of the big cats? The only animals we have managed to see till now are the two elephants."

There are long queues at the entrace, while the enclosures at the zoo remain empty

Thousands of visitors

"On an average, we have anywhere between 12,000-15,000 people visiting us every day during the Diwali break, including adults and children," said a zoo official adding that on a normal day, there are around 4,000-5,000 people.

The official explained that this surge in influx was a cyclic thing every year during Diwali. When asked about the poor condition of the zoo interiors and the lack of animals on display, he said, "All the animals are now in a quarantined area. We have the hippo, two elephants, a jackal, some deer, and the penguins on display right now."

A board stating that the zoo is undergoing renovation

"We have put up a board near the main ticket counter at present, stating that due to renovation, a lot of animals have been pulled off display," said the zoo official. "In the quarantined area, we currently have some aquatic birds, the monkeys, ghariyal, crocodile, leopard, sloth bear, and the emu."

When told that the board has names of animals that are not on display, the official said, "We have moved some more animals into quarantine and I have asked my staff to cancel their names off the notice board too."

Visitors are left photographing themselves against the backdrop of the zoo's many gardens instead
Visitors are left photographing themselves against the backdrop of the zoo's many gardens instead

"I would request people coming to visit the zoo to be patient. In a couple of months, the leopard and the lion and tiger might be back on display. Most of the approvals are in hand, and some animals, like the leopard, is already in quarantine. We are aiming to make a beautiful and international facility," he insisted.

12-15k
No. of daily visitors to the zoo during this holiday season

19
No. of species on display, according to the notice board

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