The Sardar Patel Zoological Park, also known as the Kevadia jungle safari, which is among the many attractions around the Statue of Unity and houses over a 1,000 animals and birds, will soon have a crocodile enclosure, spread over 5,500 square metres.
The enclosure will also include an Interpretation Centre as well as a rehabilitation centre for rescued crocodiles spread over an additional 3,000 square meters, which will be off-display for the public. The Director of the Zoological Park has invited bids for the proposed crocodile enclosure, which is estimated to cost about Rs 98 lakh.
However, the authorities are “yet to decide” if the crocodiles on display will be from the Narmada river, which has been home to the muggers or whether they will be brought in as part of an “exchange” programme from elsewhere.
The zoo authorities floated tenders inviting bids early in December. The plan includes crocodile holding pen with sand floor and puff panel roof as well as a keeper’s gallery with anti-skid floors. It has been designed by a Delhi-based architect and also includes “saucer shaped water bodies” within each enclosure to recreate the natural environment. The enclosures will have a moat and a retaining wall to ensure safety and distancing.
Dr RR Nala, Director of the Zoological Park, Kevadia, told this newspaper that the process to invite agencies to build the enclosures was on. “It has been part of our plan and we have begun the process to include the crocodile enclosure in the safari park soon. We will have a rehabilitation centre, where rescued crocodiles, who are in need of any medical attention or found injured can be brought in for treatment. This area will be off-display for the public.”
Sources said that while the enclosure was being created to house some of the native crocodiles from the Narmada river, authorities denied that any decision had been made on the same. A senior official said that the process of displaying crocodiles from the Narmada Dam would require special permission from the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), which encourages exchange between zoos instead.
For several years now, the Narmada reservoir as well as the river, have been used for releasing crocodiles rescued from human habitats, especially Vadodara and Central Gujarat, where the muggers live in their natural habitat amid human settlements. The locals in Narmada also venerate the idol of Goddess Narmada, who is depicted riding on a crocodile.
Nala added that the authorities were yet to plan which crocodiles would be put on display for the public. “We will do it as per the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority of India. We will look at the options of exchange when we get to that point.”
Interestingly, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) and the forest department had rescued hundreds of crocodiles from Dyke 3 of the Narmada Dam premises, which is now the location for the water aerodrome terminal that connects Kevadia to Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad. Dyke 3, officially named Panchmuli Lake, was also popularly called “Magar Talav” due to crocodiles residing there. When asked if the rescued crocodiles would be displayed for public after the due process prescribed by the CZA, Additional Chief Secretary(Forest & Environment Deptt) & MD SSNNL Rajiv Kumar Gupta said that no plan was in place yet.
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