The Delhi zoo, which hogged the headlines due to a large number of animal deaths over the past two years, will bring in more than 10 species of wildlife, including a rhino, a tigress and crocodiles, from other states through an exchange programme, according to officials.
The zoo”s director, Ramesh Pandey, said the animal mortality rate in the zoo had declined by around 45 per cent in the last six months by implementing a series of measures.
“There are 83 species of animals in the zoo at present. Work is underway to add more than 10 animal species to its population,” Pandey said.
The zoological park will bring a pair of chinkara from the Chhatbir zoo in Chandigarh, he said, adding that an exchange of birds would also take place between the two. The lone remaining chinkara had died on June 14 last year.
There were four of them at the zoo till 2018. They died one after another due to various reasons, including old age, another official said.
The Delhi zoo is also planning to bring ostriches from Kanpur, nearly four years after the lone ostrich died under mysterious circumstances.
Pandey said efforts were on to bring a tigress from Uttar Pradesh for breeding purposes and a rhino from Patna.
Official sources said central authorities have written to chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in this regard.
Currently, there are two female rhinos in the zoo, whereas the Patna zoo has 12 rhinos, according to officials.
Talks are on to acquire gharials and crocodiles from Lucknow and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. Plans are also afoot to add wild boar and pheasants to the zoo population, the director said.
The zoo does not have any giraffe or zebra. “The process to bring exotic species like giraffes has slowed down, but we are working on it,” Pandey said.
The authorities are also making efforts to “rewild” surplus herbivores, such as blackbuck, spotted deer, sambar deer and nilgai in a bid to bring down the number of animal deaths.
One of the major reasons for the higher number of animal deaths in the zoo is infighting and premature births, he said.
According to Central Zoo Authority (CZA) guidelines, a large zoo, like the one in Delhi, should keep 20 animals of a particular species, whereas it has around 250 blackbucks, 150 spotted deer, 60 sambar deer and 40 nilgai.
Around 65 animals have died in the last six months. The number of deaths was more than 120 during the corresponding period last year, the director said.
“These results were possible through intensive health monitoring and heightened drills,” he said.
The zoo has been attracting attention due to a large number of animal deaths over the last two years. It recently lost two female baboons to lung infection within 15 days. There are only three African monkeys left.
A 14-year-old tigress, Kalpana, died in April due to “kidney failure”. A female gharial had also died in April. Its putrefied carcass was found three days later.
In September last year, an eight-year-old tiger, Rama, had died of kidney failure in Delhi zoo. Its last cape buffalo died last year allegedly after eating plastic.
The lone plum-headed parrot in the zoo had also died last year. It was part of the last pair of parakeets. One of them was eaten by a snake.
The zoo also lost its last cassowary, a native of Australia and New Guinea and the “world”s most dangerous” bird, in 2019.
It was the only cassowary in the Delhi zoo for 20 years. There are only four-five such birds in zoos across the entire country, an official said.