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Delhi Zoo registers a steady drop in visitors

By Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI, JAN. 11. Reflecting a national trend, Delhi Zoo is listed among many others in the country that have registered a steady drop in the number of visitors.

The last refuge for some of the most endangered species of animals and birds, zoos across the country seem to be waging a losing battle against larger, flashier and more entertaining options. The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) undertook the exercise to collect and analyse the fluctuating number of visitors to 33 major zoos across the country in the past three years. And those which have registered a decline in the number of visitors included the Nehru Zoological Park (Hyderabad), Aurabgabad Zoo, Kamla Nehru Prani Sangrahalaya (Indore), Gandhi Zoological Park (Gwalior), Ahmedabad Zoo -- which has been severely hit due to earthquakes and communal riots in the city -- State Zoo at Guwahati, Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (Vishakhapatnam) and Mysore Zoo -- which is seeing fewer visitors due to the Cauvery agitation, previous abductions of prominent personalities by forest brigand Veerappan and increase in vehicle taxes.

Analysing what contributes to the "touchy visitors'' syndrome, the CZA found that factors including changing seasons, competing amusements parks, increased entrance fee and even natural calamities were to be blamed.

The Capital's zoo saw a marginal but steady decline in visitors from 13.87 lakhs in 2001-02 to 12.72 lakhs in 2002-03. This has been attributed to the December 13, 2001, Parliament attack which caused fear and dissuaded people from gathering at public places. Imposing of a ban on carrying eatables and disallowing private vehicles inside the zoo premises were the other major factors. The zoo, however, managed to attract 13.35 lakh visitors during 2003-04, a little more than the previous year.

"Zoos today have grown from being a place were animals are caged for exhibition to being a establishment where work is being done to understand the impact of captivity on the welfare of individual animals and carry out scientific research. Role of modern zoos has changed from entertainment and amusement to the conservation of endangered animals species. Indian zoos are home to some exotic species including slow loris, snow leopard, western tragopan, common rat snake, goral and gharial,'' explained CZA scientist, Brij Kishor Gupta.

But it is not all bad news. There are some zoos which have also seen an increase and helping them boost their number of visitors are programmes on television like Animal Planet, National Geographic and Discovery which is bringing back the interest in young and old alike among animals and birds.

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