Twenty-eight years ago, in July 1985, the AIADMK’s founder and the State’s then Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran opened the Arignar Anna Zoological park, popularly known as Vandalur zoo. During his three-hour visit, he suggested bringing over exotic species, especially from the African continent.

 Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday morning will make her maiden visit as Chief Minister to the zoo and name seven tiger cubs, comprising four white tiger cubs and three Royal Bengal cubs.

The nine-year-old Anu, the oldest tigress at the zoo, gave birth to four cubs on October 29, 2012. Three-year-old Namrata, another white tigress and a daughter of Anu was cross-bred with a Royal Bengal and gave birth to three cubs in December.

The zoo at present has 21 tigers — 13 of them being white tigers. Caretakers have been finding it difficult to train the unnamed cubs.

According to zoo officials, Ms. Jayalalithaa’s visit to the city’s lone zoo comes nearly 25 years after the last visit by a Chief Minister — M. Karunanidhi visited the zoo during his tenure in 1989.

In 2008, then Deputy Chief Minister and DMK Treasurer M.K. Stalin visited the zoo to inaugurate an elephant safari.

Zoo officials said Ms. Jayalalithaa would spend 32 minutes visiting a few enclosures, including those of a pair of pigmy hippos and four abandoned elephant calves.

“For a long time, she has been expressing her interest to visit the zoo as she is fond of wild species. But, somehow it got postponed for various reasons,” said a senior forest official.

 According to officials, the zoo will be opened at the usual time of 8 a.m. and visitors would not be disturbed due to the CM’s visit.

On Thursday, State animal husbandry minister T.K.M. Chinnayya, PWD minister K.V, Ramalingam and the Kancheepuram collector L. Sitherasenan, inspected the zoo for security arrangements and other measures of preparedness ahead of the Chief Minister’s visit.

Apart from naming the cubs, Ms. Jayalalithaa will lay foundation stones for various projects, including the setting up of the Wild Animals Research Centre and the Tamil Nadu Forest Academy Centenary auditorium.

The Wild Animals Research centre, to be built at a cost of Rs. 27.13 crore, will provide the entire gamut of information on wildlife. It would also house a research laboratory and a separate larger laboratory for research on herbivorous and carnivorous animals. The research centre will be coming up opposite to the main campus of the zoo.

When the DMK government was in power, former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had named a male and two female white tiger cubs Sembian, Indra and Valli, respectively, in September 2010. Ms. Jayalalithaa, without making an appearance at the zoo, also gave two white tiger cubs and a lion cub the names Rama, Chandra and Veera in 2011. In October 2012, the three female lion cubs at the zoo were gives the names Kala, Maya and Nila by Ms. Jayalalithaa.

More In: Chennai