By Prem Bora & Karthik Nair
Zoos are rather controversial in today’s world of animal rights and environmental concerns. We see a huge number of initiatives by zoos towards creating more space for the animals or in creating an environment similar to their habitats. Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan commonly known as Byculla Zoo or Mumbai Zoo went through similar renovation efforts last year, but possibly to very little avail.
The zoo boasts animals such as hyenas, leopards, tigers and barking deer. But, do not hope to see them all as ongoing renovations mean that some animals cannot be sighted. This issue is not new to Byculla Zoo as signs in wrong places or plain inability on part of the staff to remove or update signs has had visitors confused even prior to the renovation efforts.
While the zoo has to be applauded for its efforts in creating and maintaining scenic environments for the animals, the animals still don’t seem happy. Not to worry, we do not have an animal translator at Bombay Bustle, it just seems that most pack animals are also kept alone, which wouldn’t necessarily be healthy.
The highlight of the zoo is the penguins. They are kept in a separate building. It is quite a unique experience for anybody in the northern hemisphere to see the penguins flap around in the water. Most of us wouldn’t have expected to see penguins in Mumbai where possibly even camels complain about the heat. Photography is prohibited in the penguin zone.
It is also astonishing that a zoo with a decent social media presence is not very visitor-friendly or media-friendly. If you are plain curious about the animals or want to ask more about the renovation efforts, well, it won’t be easy to get someone to answer the question. Bombay Bustle tried to get an interview with the staff, however, nobody was available at the time. This is quite unusual for a zoo.
The entry fee for the zoo is a reasonable Rs. 50. However, one wonders if they opened a bit too soon as the renovation work is still going on. There is parking available for two-wheelers and cars for Rs. 5 and Rs. 20 respectively.
Byculla Zoo is the only zoo in Mumbai, and hence it is worth visiting once just as a sheer escapism from the fast-paced life of the city. But, a little more effort to make the place more visitor-friendly could possibly make it a more zoo-like experience right out of the film We Bought A Zoo (would be rather fun to learn how to grunt at a tiger!).