Mumbai: Five years after a colony of eight Humboldt penguins settled in the specially-created icy environs within the 160-year-old Veermata Jijabai Bhonsale Udyan & Zoo, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to introduce more exotic fauna from around the world.
The BMC hopes to gradually bring giraffes, zebras, white lions, jaguars and other wild species as part of the efforts to make the VJBUZ - set up in 1861 and one of the oldest in the country - into a world-class zoo.
These animals will be kept at the new 10-acres extension facility, adjacent to the existing zoo, and Request for Proposals for the project have been invited.
The VJBUZ is located at Byculla in a 50-acres Grade 2(B) Heritage lush-green oasis in south Mumbai, barely five km from the BSE, which symbolises the city's pre-eminent status as the country's commercial capital.
Accorded the category of a 'Medium Zoo' till September 2022, by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), BMC Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal announced a major phase-wise expansion plan of the VJBUZ to welcome the new exotic animals in the near future.
Tabling the BMC Budget 2021-2022 this morning, Chahal said that a provision of Rs 49.67 crore for the zoo development project has been made, compared with Rs 48.38 crore last year.
The BMC has already constructed 10 enclosures where animals like tigers, leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, sambar, spotted deer, swamp deer, and Madras Pond Turtle are on display.
Besides, an additional enclosure for Otters, the Indian wolf, barking deer, Nilgai, four-horned antelopes, and a project to augment the existing aviary shall be completed by next month.
In the past couple of years, under an exchange programme, the VJBUZ acquired these animals, besides two leopards and two tigers from the Mangaluru Zoo, Mysuru Zoo and Aurangabad Zoo.
Adding to the attractions, in January 2020, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the new aviary that houses over 100 species of birds -- and is the biggest and tallest in the country -- at the zoo.
Along with the city zoo's prime charm, the Humboldt penguins, now at the Aviary, tigers, leopards and hyenas have proved to be major crowd-pullers at the zoo.
Chahal said that a new facility comprising models of various iconic locations like Gateway of India, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai's famed beaches and mangroves and other sites shall come up on the first floor of the Interpretation Building at the zoo where visitors can take virtual wall or 3D film tours.
Incidentally, both CM Thackeray and his son, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, are wildlife enthusiasts, and the Penguin project was successfully implemented with Thackeray Jr. throwing his full weight behind it.