The “mini zoo” of Sundarvan, situated in the heart of Ahmedabad city, got a refurbished and redesigned ‘snake park’, funded as part of a corporate social responsibility project by Wagh Bakri Tea Group.
The snark park, built in 1978 and inaugurated then by ornithologist Salim Ali, was inaugurated after redesigning on Monday by Kartikeya Sarabhai, director of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), the organisation which runs the Sundarvan programme.
The inauguration comes before the estimated timeline of March 2022.
Speaking at the sidelines of the inaugural event, Sarabhai said that Sundarvan is an exhibit of “a natural mini-forest in the middle of the city” and lauded the redesigned set-up while reminiscing of how nearly 60 snakes were brought from Madras in 1978 to Ahmedabad via Mumbai, in flights.
“We (Sundarvan) changed the way people related (to snakes),” Sarabhai said.
Designed in compliance with Central Zoo Authorities’ guidelines, prior to the refurbishment, the snake park had seven small enclosures housing the snakes, as Sureshbabu Nair, coordinator of the Sundarvan and chief administrator at Centre for Environment Education, says.
“The guidelines earlier permitted that the snakes could be housed in small enclosures but now the guidelines say, according to the species, it should be seven by eight feet and for larger species such as python it should be 25 feet by 30 feet. We approached Wagh Bakri for CSR funding and they assured Rs 25 lakh for it but we have spent about Rs 32 lakh for this project now (wholly funded by Wagh Bakri),” Nair said.
“Maintenance cost is borne from entry fees and our other special shows and programmes….We (Sundarvan) used to get funds from CEE which used to get funds from the government but that has stopped so therefore we faced some issues on this front. We then thought to ask for CSR funding where Wagh Bakri contributed and acted as financiers. We approached them three years back and they gave us a deadline of March 2022 but we have inaugurated this before Diwali,” he added.
Initially designed by Padma Shri wildlife conservationist Romulus Whitaker, the refurbished snake park has been designed by Ahmedabad-based architect and designer Rishit Shroff.
Shroff said, “Since 1978, there has been a lot of research on snakes…When this (refurbishment of the snake park) was being planned, Kartikeybhai (Sarabhai) told me that they would want portable containers which can be relocated somewhere else if need be…and we had to do it in a very short period of time. We were approached after the second unlock (July 2020) last year. The idea was to use reused or recycled (shipping) containers, which we remodeled into these enclosures.”
Shroff added that snakes do not use food as a mechanism to regulate body temperatures as we do. “If it is too cold or too hot, they will die and Ahmedabad has a very fluctuating temperature…so we had to go for insulated containers with PUF (polyurethane foam) panel technology,” added Shroff specialises in enclosure designs.
Taking care of the need of snakes to ‘bask in sunlight’, each enclosure has a skylight on the roof to ensure that natural sunlight enters the enclosure and to regulate the temperature and humidity inside the containers, air coolers have been installed.
Every enclosure has been designed species-specific as well and also includes a plaque containing information about the exhibited species.
For example, the enclosure for Indian cobra or the spectacled cobra has been designed to mimic its natural habitat, with bamboo foliage.
Shroff adds, “We have also subconsciously played into the visitors’ mind where the popular belief is that cobras protect treasures, so we have put a small ruin-like structure inside the enclosure. The fact is that cobras are not protecting treasures at ruins but rather they are found in such places because of the desolated nature of ruins.”