Which are India’s best zoos? Zoo grading begins

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) People will soon be able to know which are India’s best zoos, with the authorities starting the grading process for nearly 200 zoological parks in the country based on their performance on different parameters. Those faring poorly could even be penalised.

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA), which oversees the functioning of zoos across the country, has developed a grading system and launched a pilot project of evaluating seven major zoological parks across the country.

“We have developed a grading process like the one prevalent in Western countries. All facilities in zoos will be measured on various indices and they will be rated accordingly,” B.S. Bonal, member secretary of the authority, told IANS.

The seven zoos selected for the pilot project are Assam State Zoo, Guwahati; Sanjay Gandhi Zoo, Patna; Kamala Nehru Zoo, Ahmedabad; Sri Chamaraja Zoo, Mysore; Nandankanan Zoo, Bhubaneshwar; Nehru Zoo, Hyderabad; and Vandalur Zoo, Chennai.

Based on the results, the grading will be done for the other 191 zoo in the coming months.

The grading will be done on a scale of 1-100 under categories like sanitation, planning, environment, human resources, animal enclosures, health, education and awareness among staff, administration, visitor facilities and overall upkeep.

The grading will be excellent (score of 90-100), very good (70-89), good (50-69), fair (30-49) and unsatisfactory (less than 30).

Members of the zoo authority will be visiting each of the zoos starting this month.

“Members will visit the seven zoos and the evaluation process in these is likely to be completed in the next two months. After that, we will see if the grading system developed by us can fit all zoos,” B.K. Gupta, the authority’s evaluation and monitoring officer, told IANS.

Gupta said the zoos for the pilot project had been selected on the basis of their importance like largest collection of animals, area, number of endangered species and footfalls.

The National Zoo Policy of 1998 gives clear directions for the functioning of zoos. It states that the main objective of zoos shall be to complement and strengthen national efforts in the conservation of the rich biodiversity of the country.

“To play the assigned role, the zoos need to have physically, genetically and behaviorally healthy and self-sustaining populations of desirable wild animal species,” said Bonal.

The grading system will improve the upkeep of zoos as it is likely to develop a sense of competition among various zoos.

The zoos that fall in unsatisfactory category will be derecognised and would not be allowed to stay open to the public till they improve their condition.

This is important not only from the display element but also as an insurance against future exigencies and the release, introduction and reintroduction operations into the wild, if required, sources said.

To provide financial support, zoos in the country have also been allowed to spend the revenue generated through sale of tickets for upkeep of the zoo rather than depositing this in the state exchequer, the sources added.

The Central Zoo Authority was established in 1992 to oversee the functioning of zoos and provide them with technical and other assistance for their improvement. Accordingly, zoo rules were formulated to fix standards and norms for the scientific management of zoos.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

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