Zoo will be open for longer hours; additional ticket counters and food courts to be opened

The city’s zoological park at Vandalur is now gearing up for the annual festival rush during Pongal between January 14 and 16.

With better civic amenities and added safety measures, wildlife lovers can spend quality time at the zoo.

Zoo officials said that there has been a steady rise in the total number of visitors to the zoo during the Pongal holidays, with the total number of visitors more than doubling from 58,000 in 2009 to around one lakh twenty thousand last year.

Unlike other tourist spots in the city, the zoo is preferred as a destination to spend leisure time at low costs. This is said to be a major reason for the rise in the number of visitors especially during the Pongal festive season to the zoo.

“The zoo remains a favourite place for wildlife lovers in the city because it is easily accessible and affordable in terms of expenses inside the zoo premises,” said S. Kavitha, a college student.

To cater to the needs of visitors, zoo officials have made elaborate arrangements, including the opening of 20 additional ticket counters to meet the rush. An additional dozen rest shelters, an equal number of small food courts and around 30 water taps have also been set up inside the zoo. Four battery-run cars and separate vehicles for lion safaris have been arranged by the zoo authorities. Plastic bags and items have been banned inside the zoo. Further, the zoo will be opened an hour earlier at 7 a.m. and will be closed an hour later at 6 p.m. to allow visitors to enjoy their time at the zoo.

“We are expecting more visitors due to the better facilities available and the ambience in the zoo. The zoo will remain open on the coming Tuesday despite it being a weekly holiday,” said zoo director, KSSVP Reddy, who is also the chief conservator of forests.

As part of the preparation to meet the rush, a coordination meeting was organised by the zoo officials with other State agencies including the TNEB, Metro water, MTC and the police. Among other measures, the MTC will operate an additional 500 bus services to the zoo from various parts in the city and adjoining districts including Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Vellore. Traffic on the Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road, a national highway, and on the Vandalur – Kelambakkam High Road will be regulated with restrictions on heavy vehicles, especially tipper lorries.

Space for parking inside the zoo has been expanded to allow an additional 200 vehicles. A fire service, a medical unit and an ambulance will also be stationed for any emergencies.

“To regulate visitors’ movement inside the zoo, more than 150 forest officials from Chennai, Vellore and Villupuram division have been roped in. Further, student volunteers from city colleges including MCC in Tambaram will also help us during the Pongal holidays,” said Mr. Reddy.       

As a special measure on Kannum Pongal day, barring the ten-year-old Bhishmar, the other 13 white tigers will be left for public viewing within the enclosure for the entire day (until 6 p.m.). Usually, every day, two tigers are left for public viewing until 2 p.m. on a rotational basis, while the other tigers are kept in their cage in the enclosure.

Spread over 1,265 acres with 2,553 species of flora and fauna, the zoo is also home to 46 endangered animals of the Western Ghats and the Indian Subcontinent.

Keywords: Vandalur Zoo

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