Dimapur, May 17: Eleven years since establishment, the Nagaland Zoological Park (NZP) at Rangapahar in Dimapur continues to suffer from severe resource crunch, rendering its growth snail-paced.
The NZP director, Dr. Prabhat Kumar, told Eastern Mirror that there are currently more than 30 enclosures sheltering ‘a decent amount of individual species.’ Every now and then, he said, the zoo receives new inmates.
Difficult to pair animals
Generally, it is necessary to pair animals with its mate to encourage breeding. However, quite a few of those inside NZP are lonesome. The female Royal Bengal tiger, Karthika that arrived with its mate, Manikantan, in January 2017, has been alone since July 31, 2018 after Manikantan died.
Kumar said that it is very difficult to find its mate despite the authority’s attempts to find one. They are also looking for a pair of white tigers. A Chennai-based zoo has agreed “in principle” for exchange with another pair of animals from the NZP. Negotiations are currently on.
For the recently arrived red serow—a relative of the mountain goat—the NZP has arranged for a mate from a zoo in Assam. The deal from this “breeding loan” is that Nagaland will receive the first progeny. The team from Assam arrived on May 17.
Interestingly, the NZP has five Himalayan black bears which is not found in most parts of India. They help in sealing exchange deals with other zoos. “They want to have this bear, so any zoo in India is willing to take it,” Kumar said. Just months ago, the NZP bartered the bears for a pair of wolves.
He explained that for any exchange between zoos, they must obtain the green signal from Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
Kumar also announced that the NZP would get five gharials—a type of crocodile which derives its name from ghara, an Indian word for pot because of a bulbous knob present at the end of their snout—from Lucknow.
“The only problem is that we do not have the facility to keep them. The zoo in Lucknow is constantly contacting us saying that the crocodiles are ready to deliver. Transportation is a costly affair, generally costing about INR 4 to 5 lakh. The zoo has agreed to pay the amount,” he informed. Normally the zoos share the expense on 50-50 basis.
“Recently, we have submitted a proposal to the CZA requesting them to give funds for the enclosure. But these things take time. In the meantime, we have tied up with one organisation named Turtle Survival Alliance. They will be contacting some international agencies who can fund us so that we can make a temporary arrangement to house the crocodiles,” he shared.
Lack of rescue centre
According to Kumar, the NZP’s biggest problem is the lack of rescue centres. “At the moment, the rescue centre (at NZP) is at a very deteriorating condition. Apart from zoo, no other agencies give this facility. So we should also have a good facility where we can keep the rescued animals.”
Rescue centre, he said, is also meant for temporary housing of animals. “For example, if the gharials arrive, we need an enclosure. So in the meantime, we can make use of the rescue centre for immediate housing of the animals.”
The director said that funds are “always short (inadequate) and delayed.” Funds for the enclosures are provided by the CZA. “For one enclosure, we generally get the fund after a year or two. The process of proposal takes time.”
The state government provides for the feeding of animals. “But we ask for additional funds because every now and then, we get new animals, especially the rescued ones,” he said.
According to him, the funds from CZA are not enough. “To build an enclosure is like building a house for someone, it costs a lot,” he expressed.
Lack of veterinary facilities
The NZP also suffers from lack of veterinary facilities. He said that the existing veterinary staff have been hired on ‘contract basis.’
“We have recently constructed one room for vet services but generally for a veterinarian, we need a full-fledged vet facility, which is not there. We are just operating from one room at the moment. I always advocate that there should be a permanent official. So far it has not been done. When we need an expert from outside, they don’t come for a mere amount of INR 25, 000. So it is very difficult to find people who are specialised in the field. That is also a challenge we are facing,” he shared.
For years, land encroachment has haunted the NZP. Even to this day, people attempt to encroach upon the NZP land. Recently, security personnel caught one person digging up the soil outside the zoo at night solely to weaken the wall.
Another local person has made several attempts to claim the entire NZP territory as his. “The High Court appointed a commission, who visited the area with both the parties to verify the boundary. I don’t know what his intentions are but obviously he is not having good intention,” he said, adding that the case is still ongoing.
Another person filed ten to 12 cases against NZP which, according to Kumar, were all dismissed by the court.
Kumar appealed to the visitors to be ‘very responsible.’ “Every day, I personally get hold of people who try to litter the park,” he said.
Sometimes visitors tease the animals, sneak in and throw plastics, he said. If caught they are fined. “It might make them unhappy sometimes, but we cannot be lenient on them. As visitors they should also know what they are not supposed to do,” he asserted.