(Written by Sanjana Bhalerao)
While most visitors line up to see Byculla zoo’s star attraction — the Penguins, it is the green cover in the zoo that has caught the attention of researchers. Trees found in Australia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, African countries, Malaysia, Myanmar, West Indies, Cuba and Peru don the Jijamata Udyan or Byculla zoo, researchers have found during a study at the zoo.
The research, undertaken by Samira Rathod Design under the aegis of SIRCLE (Spade India Research Cell) found 3,213 trees and 60 significant species in the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan also known as Rani Baug in Byculla. The garden with a zoo is spread over 53 acres and has a Grade II heritage botanical garden. The study catalogued 853 plant species in 149 families, making a total of 3,213 trees.
The research also found two Baobab trees from Africa at the entrance of the zoo. The species was recently announced as “endangered” by the United Nations. A native tree to tropical Africa, also known as the Tree of Life, they were brought to the country over a thousand years ago by Abyssinian and Portuguese traders. The Baobab tree has nine species. The species found in Mumbai (Adansonia digitata) is not as threatened as the ones in Africa (Adansonia grandidieri).
The researchers have concluded that the trees are extremely rare and need to be protected. A survey conducted by the Mumbai civic body had found 120 Baobab trees across the city, which are known to have a life of over 100 years. “We have published a book with our research and now, we are planning to submit it to the authorities and planning to work on preservation. The goal of the research was to express concerns for the preservation of the Baug,” said Jai Shah, the lead researcher of the book- Museum of Trees.
Experts believe that such trees need immediate preservation. “Immediate and concentrated efforts must be undertaken to preserve the trees. We need a plan in place of adversities where we might end up losing these trees forever, either due to natural disasters or haphazard development,” said Shardul S Bajikar, a naturalist and the director of Adventure Sports and Beyond.
The rare trees on the zoo premises include Krishna Vad or Indian Banyan, Baobab, Roze of Venezuela, Tree of Heaven, Gustavia Insignis and Crescentia Cujete, also known as Beggar’s Bowl.