Chennai has the distinction of having the first zoo in India in 1855. This was functioning near Moore Market Complex before it had to be shifted to the present location in 1979, when the state government had to hand over the land to the railways for expansion works.
The new sprawling zoo on Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road was inaugurated by then Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran. By 1982, the first enclosures were readied, and seven sambars, five macaw parrots and one African grey parrot and animals such as zebra, hippo and blackbuck were transported from the old Corporation Zoo. All the animals and birds – 155 in number – were also shifted to the present location.
A zoo official said, “Our first task was to enrich the animal collection of the zoo and the highest priority was given to acquisition of glamorous exotic animals from different parts of the globe. Breeding of the rare and endangered species of wild animals, like Shangai (Thamin deer), Swamp deer, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Gaur, Wild Dog, Indian Tiger and the Asiatic Lion, was successful. Avian species that bred successfully included the Pea Fowl, Red Jungle Fowl and Kaleej Pheasant. The Rock Python and the rare Malabar Squirrel, endemic to the Western Ghats, have also bred well.”
He further said: “The aims of the park include offsite conservation of critically endangered species, wildlife education and wildlife research. The first Population Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA) workshop held in 1993 was followed by planned breeding of the lion-tailed macaque (LTM), and genetic management of the species. The AAZP is currently the co-ordinating zoo for the conservation breeding of the LTM.”
In 2014, the Butterfly Park was created in over 2.5 hectares, with the help of experts from the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and was formally inaugurated by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on September 20, 2015.
There are over 1,500 species of butterfiles in India and Tamil Nadu alone is home to nearly 300 of them.
The three elephants — Giri, Origam and Asokan are quite an attraction to the visitors. By 3 p.m. everyday, crowds gather to watch them at the Elephant Shower Bank.
The elephants are also beneficiaries of the rejuvenation camp that is held during November-December every year.
Big cats biggest attraction
The zoo has 11 white tigers and 15 Royal Bengal tigers and one of them, Rama very recently made his exit to the Udaipur zoo.
The authorities are planning to begin another mating programme which will further increase their number.
Keeping them protected
The zoo has set a new record of breeding lion-tailed maxaques (LTM). There are a total of 24 now.
LTMs are classified as protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The winged charmers
Two greater rhea, the flightless birds from South America are the new addition to the zoo.
This is the frst time that the rheas are being exhibited in the zoo since its inception in 1855, according to officials.
Hogging all limelight
The hog deer said to be the gentlest species, are found in north India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, China and Thailand.
The zoo currently houses six species of deer including the spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, swamp and sangai deer.
The wolves of Vandalur
The Udaipur zoo had sent two wolves in exchange of the white tiger. There are a total of four wolves in the zoo now.
The two wolves are getting acquainted with the new environment before being sent into the enclosures.
‘The first task was to enrich the animal collection of the zoo’