Spotted deer at Amirthi Zoological Park, around 25 km away from Vellore town, will soon get company as zoo officials are planning to bring a pair of black buck, a few pairs of cobra, a python and a common krait, mostly from Vandalur zoo in Chennai.
Forest officials said that as Amirthi Zoo has been classified as a mini-zoo based on its total area, it can accommodate only herbivorous species as per the norms of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). Also, the zoo can bring or exchange wild species only from other zoos and not from the wild (as in the case of Vandalur zoo). “We have just started the process of bringing a few species to Amirthi Zoo. The species will be brought mostly from Vandalur or Kurumbapatti zoo (Salem),” S. Kalanidhi, District Forest Officer (DFO), Vellore division, told The Hindu.
As per plan, forest officials said that a team led by the Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) will visit Vandalur zoo in the coming days to speed up the process under the animal exchange programme.
Blackbuck was the first choice for Amirthi Zoo, as officials said that the Indian antelope can acclimatise itself to an open environment like Jawadhu Hills much faster than other species. The species that might be given in exchange from Amirthi zoo have not yet been decided, as forest officials said that such a request has not been made by the authorities of Vandalur zoo.
Subsequently, the Chief Wildlife Warden (Chennai) will give the nod for safe transport of these species to Amirthi Zoo. A week-long training will also be imparted to animal keepers at Amirthi Zoo to take care of the new species.
Previous animal exchanges were done prior to COVID-19 in 2019, when Amirthi Zoo got a Sambar deer and a few pelicans from Vandalur Zoo. Two reasons that went in favour of getting wild species to Amirthi Zoo are empty cages and a steady rise in the number of visitors to the zoo. Of the 16 total cages, six are empty as the species died of old age. Also, on average, the zoo gets 400–500 visitors every day.
Spread over 25 hectares on the northern part of Jawadhu Hills, Amirthi Zoo was formed in 1967 in the then North Arcot district, which comprised Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Ranipet, and Tirupattur districts. The zoo consists of two RFs, Thellai RF and Puthur RF, waterfalls, birds, snakes, porcupines, crocodiles, and star tortoises. Spotted deer formed the majority of species in the zoo as their numbers grew to 130.