Less than six months after it refused to provide lions to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), the Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden in Junagadh has decided to provide a pair of Asiatic lions to the Byculla Zoo. However, it was yet to be decided what would be exchanged in return for the big cats.
“Sakkarbaug Zoo has agreed to provide us with a pair of lions. We are yet to decide what will be exchanged in return. We have sent proposals for different animals to various zoos across the country… but we had to get the lions from this zoo, which is known to provide lions across the country,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director, Byculla Zoo.
The national park authorities have been in correspondence with the Sakkarbaug Zoo for over a year now, to procure their lions in exchange for one of their animals. They had even offered a pair of Rusty Spotted Cats. However, their proposal was rejected earlier this year.
“The proposal could have been rejected as they sometimes do not prefer to exchange their animals with a rescue centre,” added Dr Tripathi.
Meanwhile, Byculla Zoo, which is also called Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, also proposes to get a pair of tigers from Siddharth Zoo in Aurangabad. “We are in talks with them, and it is in the final stage of approval,” he added.
As part of the second phase of renovating the British-era zoo, the authorities are bringing in new animals from both Indian and foreign zoos. Apart from the lions and tigers, the zoo also plans to bring in nilgais, barasinghas, otters, cheetahs and leopards. In March, the zoo authorities had reached an agreement with the Kanpur zoo to receive a pair of barasingha in exchange for their birds like Macaws and water birds.
The zoo is currently in the process of constructing new enclosures for these animals. In January, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had awarded the contract to construct seven enclosures. The authorities have decided to bring the new animals to the zoo only after finishing the completion of each enclosure.
“We have decided to complete the enclosure before bringing the animals. Last time the enclosures were not ready when the penguins were brought here… We do not want that to happen this time,” Dr Tripathi said.
As the enclosures are being renovated, the zoo has already begun shifting some of the animals to temporary enclosures. Five crocodiles and 15 monkeys are currently housed in these temporary enclosures.
In the first phase of renovation, the zoo brought in Humboldt penguins from South Korea in July 2016, leading to more footfalls and increased revenue to the zoo.