Darjeeling’s Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP) authorities are conducting a behavioural study of animals, making the most of the indefinite strike. Clashes and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s indefinite bandh call on June 15 following a police raid on its leader Bimal Gurung’s house has paralysed life in the region.
“Visitors have stopped coming to the zoo (PNHZP). This is the time of peace and tranquillity for animals. We have therefore initiated a programme to record their behaviour,”’ said PNHZP’s director Pyar Chand. Chand added the data collected will help them understand how animals behave and live in confinement when there is little to disturb them. ‘We are monitoring carefully each of the animals, especially red pandas and snow leopards.
The movements, time spend outdoors and even communication with each other is being recorded. The animals usually spend time amid noise of visitors, who are not present now,” he said. He added that their food intake and anxiety levels are also being recorded. Chand said PNHZP, which is popularly known as Darjeeling Zoo, was not facing food shortage yet, but supplies were diminishing fast. “We are not getting enough chicken. But we have good supply of beef. Grass, leaves and other food items for animals are being procured from hills. Locals are supporting us in a good way,” said Chand.
Chand said that the zoo requires nearly 100 kg of meat, 80 kg fodder, 50-60 kg fruits, 50 kg grams, wheat and flour daily. “Actually we have stock of fruits, grams, wheat for the next few days. We have a ready source of fodder for herbivores as there are forests nearby,” said Chand. “But if the shutdown continues for a few more days, then arranging for such huge quantity of meat and fruits would be a problem.” Chand said that if the strike continues, they will seek help of the administration and political parties.
There are around 350 animals of 49 species at the zoo, known for conservation and breeding programmes of red pandas, snow leopards, Tibetan wolves and highly endangered animal species from eastern Himalayas.