The National Zoological Park (Delhi Zoo)
The National Zoological Park also formerly known as the 'Delhi Zoo' is situated near Purana Qila or Old Fort and close to Humayun Tomb on Mathura Road in New Delhi and hence is easily accessible via local transport. The concept to create a natural habitat for animals and birds within the capital city was initiated in 1952 by the Indian Board for Wildlife along with assistance from Smt. Indira Gandhi; the former lady Prime Minister of India and the AD-HOC committee established by a few nature lovers. Together, they formulated a plan to establish a Zoological Park in Delhi and placed the proposal to construct this park under the supervision of the Chief Commissioner elected as the Chairman of this Committee.
The Committee appointed Mr. M. E. F. Bowring Welsh who belonged to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as the Secretary and on 9th September 1953, the committee selected a massive area spanning over 214 acres sandwiched between Purana Qila and Humayun Tomb to be established as the Zoo. The Central Government was given the responsibility to develop the Park and upon completion, the functioning of the park was handed over to the Government of Delhi to be managed by the Forest Department of the Indian Government for which Mr. N. D. Bachkheti, an IFS (Indian Forest Service) Officer was appointed on 1st October 1955 to set up and supervise the functions of the Zoological Park.
The Committee hired the services of Major Weinmann who was then the Director of the Ceylon Zoological Garden of Colombo in Sri Lanka to assist in planning the design, layout and development of the Park. Later, due to unknown reasons, Major Weinmann could not continue further and submitted only the initial plan to the Committee. They, later hired the services of Mr. Carl Hagenbeck, an owner of the Animal Park at Hamburg in West Germany who further proposed the requirement of open moat enclosures added to the preliminary plan of Major Weinmann.
Mr. Carl Hagenbeck presented the layout of the Zoological Park in March 1956 where he drew the roadmap, waterways, pathways and open moat animal enclosures with a proper sewage system required for the Park. Later, the layout plan was slightly amended to accommodate the topography and local conditions of the area and the amended plan was finally approved by the Indian Government on 31st December 1956.
The Northern half of the Zoological Park took shape by the end of 1959 after green lawns, waterways, pathways, roads, water pools, animal enclosures and plantation of more than 200 variety of trees (identified and named), flowers, shrubs and other form of greenery were completed. Upon completion, the various states of the Indian Government gifted animals like Leopards, Tigers, Foxes, Bears, Monkeys, Antelope, Deer to name a few and various species of birds for this Park. These animals and birds were kept in temporary enclosures, which is an ancient square-shaped courtyard built by the Mughals where travellers would temporary rest for a few days when transiting via Delhi and after a few days of making the Zoo equipped with the required food supply and facilities for these animals and birds, they were moved to their permanent enclosures.
The Park was named as the 'Delhi Zoo' and was officially inaugurated by Mr. Punjab Rao Deshmukh who was then the Honourable Minister of the Indian Government. Later, in 1982, the 'Delhi Zoo' was renamed as the 'National Zoological Park' as it was recognised as one of the largest and best Zoos in Asia and India. The authorities ensured that these animals and birds of which a few are endangered species are able to breed naturally within the enclosures of the zoo and are also fed properly. They also aimed at providing an area wherein wildlife can thrive under natural conditions and habitat and at the same time provide an opportunity for people to learn and educate themselves about the importance of wildlife conservation so that a well balanced ecosystem is maintained.
Today, the National Zoological Park homes more than 20,000 different species of birds and animals. Marshlands were especially made for the birds while massive individual open moat enclosures are available for each animal. Endangered species of animals like the White Bengal Tiger are kept in separate enclosures and exotic birds are kept in cages to ensure that they are not harmed while the more dangerous animals like Tigers and Leopards are kept within massive cages to avoid any accidents. Other animals include the African Wild Buffaloes, Asiatic Lions, Chimpanzees, Giraffes, , Hippopotamuses, Elephants, Spider Monkeys, Cockatoos, Cranes, Emu, Kites, Painted Storks, Parakeets and the recent addition which include a pair of South American Jaguars, a pair of Grey Australian Kangaroos and three Red Lechwe African Antelopes.
The National Zoological Park is well equipped with Facilities for the physically challenged people and Senior Citizens like a few Battery driven open-roof Trolleys which can accommodate 6 people at one time for their convenience and can also be hired by other people along with children for a reasonable amount of INR 25.00. Elephant rides are also available at a reasonable rate to attract more visitors and recreate a Safari ambience within the premises of the zoo as seen in many sanctuaries. The Zoo caretakers also ensure that the Park is kept clean, waterways and pathways are well maintained and the grass is well trimmed on a frequent basis.
The National Zoological Park also maintains strict norms to be adhered by all visitors to ensure cleanliness and hygiene of the park. Smoking, Intoxication, littering the Zoo and bringing eatables or any kind of food items from outside within the premises are all strictly prohibited and to ensure compliance, every visitor is strictly checked at the entrance gate of the Zoo before entering. A Food Canteen and Soft-Drink Trolleys are available within the premises of the Zoo; however, for families or couples who bring in their own picnic lunches, a huge lawn outside the Park is available for use.
The National Zoological Park authorities also organised an Orientation training programme for 120 teachers in order to educate them about the Role of a Zoo and also to create awareness about the importance of conserving wildlife. The Zoo authorities also organises a 'Zoo Marathon' from Jawaharlal Nehru Station up till the Delhi Zoo participated by numerous students every year to remind the population of Delhi about their individual responsibilities and duties of ensuring that the Flora and Fauna of Nature is preserved and protected.
The entry fee into the National Zoological Park is INR 10.00 per head for Indian Nationalities and USD 1.00 per head for Foreign Nationalities. It is opened to all Tourists and visitors from Saturdays to Thursdays and it remains closed on Fridays and National Gazetted Holidays. The Zoo also features a library that homes a collection of books on Wildlife and also provides detailed information about how this Zoo was conceptualised and realised which will definitely trigger the interest of all visitors and tourists.