Zoo expansion at Sanjay Gandhi Park gathers steam

In an interaction with The Indian Express, Chief Conservator of Forests and director of SGNP Sunil Limaye talks about the project, its progress.

The plan for developing the existing mini-zoo into a medium one, including a leopard safari inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) seems to be progressing finally. In an interaction with the editorial staff of The Indian Express on Tuesday, Chief Conservator of Forests and director of SGNP Sunil Limaye said the master plan for the same was submitted to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) recently.

Proposed by the forest department a few years ago, the plan was to increase the size of the zoo, bring in more species and allowing visitors to see the animals up close. The expanded zoo will be close to the existing lion and tiger safari area and include an enclosure for herbivores as well as an aviary.

"After we submitted the master plan to CZA, their team visited us for a survey recently. We are now awaiting official approval from them," said Limaye.

Apart from the existing species such as tiger, lion, panther, vulture, sambhar, neelgai, antelope and barking deer on display at the national park, new species such as jackals, otters and birds like pelicans and falcons will be procured from other zoos. The number of birds and animals is expected to rise from 50 to 250.

An integral part of this will be a leopard safari, for which a fence of about 35 ft will be built. The leopards will be released into the safari a few times a day.

The park authorities are in the middle of constructing a new area for rescued leopards. The current rescue and rehabilitation centre lacks space. It has a capacity to accommodate 22 leopards with an area of 100 sq ft per animal. Norms, however, stipulate an area of at least 125 sq ft per animal. "The new orphanage will be spread over an acre. Area per animal will be around 175 sq ft, which will allow us to accommodate about 25 leopards. There will be a separate exercise area as well. The construction, being carried out by Public Works Department, is halfway through and expected to be completed by March-end," said Limaye.

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