Already facing a financial loss amounting to approximately Rs 3.50 crore in the last four months, the Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, Chhatbir, has made a detailed proposal mentioning almost a dozen preventive steps including cashless payments, to open its doors to the general public in August this year.
The other proposals put forth by the zoo include 80 percent advance online booking instead of direct ticket sale, face masks for everyone entering the zoo, ensuring social distancing inside premises, keeping canteens shut, and a restriction on the numbers of visitors.
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) of India had communicated with the zoo authorities last month, suggesting Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for opening of the zoos.
The CZA had also stated that consent of the state will be required before opening the zoo. Some features of the SOP include thermal screening for all visitors, restricting entry of those coming from containment areas and elderly.
The Chhatbir zoo used to witness an average footfall of 6,000 people on weekends before the pandemic struck.
“We are in the process of making our online booking system more vibrant. It is a fact that only 10 per cent visitors use the online system. We want to promote it in a manner, which compels at least 50 to 60 per cent visitors to visit after an advanced online booking. At the same time, we are also emphasising on cashless modes of payment,” said M Sudhagar, Field Director, Chhatbir Zoo.
“We have decided to not start the lion safari immediately. Strict timing with strict number of visitors are on the cards. Since February when the zoo was closed due to Covid-19, we have suffered a loss of approximately Rs 3.50 crore. We will send a detailed proposal to the state government requesting them to allow us to open the zoo within two weeks,” he added.
The Bannerghatta Zoo in Karnataka and two other zoos in UP were opened this month, with strict compliance with SOPs.
“At Bannerghatta Zoo, the management made usage of umbrellas by all visitors compulsory. But the management is facing certain issues. Sanitisation of large numbers of umbrellas is a big issue. Visitors are not willing to reuse once used umbrellas. We are keeping all of this in mind before finalising the rules,” said a Chhatbir zoo official.
Chhatbir Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Northern India, which houses 369 mammals, more than 400 birds and 20 reptiles. The zoo’s lion safari, spread is spread in an area more than 2 km, and is a major draw for people.