November 30, 2021 4:46:24 am
A record 16,503 people visited Byculla zoo on Sunday, forcing the management to close the entry gates at 4 pm due to Covid-19 concerns. The zoo reopened to the public on November 1 after being shut for eight months due to the pandemic.
The number of visitors on Sunday was higher than pre-pandemic weekend numbers of nearly 15,000.
The zoo’s main attractions — a group of Humboldt penguins and their chicks, tigers and hyenas — are crowd-pullers. Over the weekend, the zoo recorded a footfall of 26,297. The total revenue collected in the two days was over 10 lakh.
Weekdays are not quiet either with between 5,000 to 6,000 people streaming in daily. Tickets are Rs 50 for adults and Rs 25 for children.
Zoo director Sanjay Tripathi said, “Keeping the Covid-19 precautionary measures in mind, we had closed the entry gates of the zoo at 4 pm on Sunday. Generally, the gates are open for visitors till 6 pm. We have also increased the security arrangements and request people to maintain a queue while visiting the zoo.”
After more than two months of discussion over the maintenance cost of the Humboldt penguin enclosure at the Byculla Zoo erupted in the BMC, the standing committee meeting on Monday approved the Rs 15 crore enclosure maintenance proposal.
The standing committee approved a three-year maintenance contract to M/s Highway Construction for Rs 15.87 crore. M/s Highway Construction is the also current contractor and was the only bidder to the tender. The existing contract ended on September 30, 2021, and since then the agency maintaining it had been given extensions (for maintenance).
In a letter dated November 29, BJP corporator Vinod Mishra has asked the mayor and the standing committee chairman to withdraw the current maintenance proposal and re-negotiate the cost of one-year additional maintenance of the penguin enclosure by the current contractor. Mishra suggested the staff already available with the zoo should be roped in to take care of the penguins and their enclosure.
Mishra alleged that the contract conditions are rigged to support the existing contractor. However, a civic official on the condition of anonymity said, “The tender was open for bid but no new contractor came forward. We are left with no choice but to award the work to the agency that has come forward and also meets the qualification.”
The penguin enclosure facility is equipped with chillers, CCTV cameras for 24/7 monitoring, veterinarians and animal keepers, engineers for care and management of the penguins and the enclosure. After the zoo welcomed two penguin chicks this year, there are nine flightless birds— Olive (7years), Popeye (6 years), Donald (5.5 years), Daisy (5.5 years), Molt (5 years), Flipper (8 years) and Bubble (5 years), Oreo (6 months) and an unnamed chick.
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