NEARLY THREE months after it was closed following a bird flu outbreak, the National Zoological Park, popularly known as the Delhi zoo, was thrown open to the public on Wednesday.
However, the enclosure which houses water birds remained out of bounds for the public. “Three pelican chicks have hatched and they will get disturbed by excessive movement and noise by visitors. It is a temporary measure and the enclosure will be opened to the public soon,” PRO, Delhi zoo, Riyaz Khan said.
The zoo was closed on October 18 after the death of eight ducks and pelicans in the water birds enclosure. The cause was a suspected outbreak of the H5N8 virus, a first in the capital. As a precautionary measure, the Centre and the Delhi government decided to close the zoo. Since then, 15 more birds died in the zoo and another 100 died in the capital.
Sakshi Mittal, special development officer, development department, which oversees the animal husbandry department, said, “We had written to the Union animal husbandry ministry to permit us to open the zoo, the Hauz Khas district lake park and Shakti Sthal premises.
We have received results of all 123 samples sent for testing and the last sample which tested positive for the virus was more than two fortnights ago. So, the Centre gave us the nod to reopen the zoo.”
On Wednesday, signs of the outbreak could be seen on the premises with the large landing of the staircase at the gate caked in lime — a common disinfectant. Roughly 6,020 visitors came to the zoo through the day.
“It is our son’s birthday, so we decided to spend the day at the zoo. I did not know the zoo had been closed before today,” Vijay Singh, an insurance agent from Shahpur Daulatpur, said.
Khan said the average expected footfall for this time is 7,000. “Because it is the first day of the season, fewer people turned up. We expect it to go up to 10,000 by January-end,” he said.
Staffers, vendors and auto rickshaws — largely dependent on the zoo for business — were a happy lot. “I came back to Delhi this morning after three months. We were sent back to our villages because there has been no work since October,” Neeraj, the driver of a battery-operated vehicle in the zoo, said.