Kolkata: State Urban Development minister Firhad Hakim, along with state Forest minister Binay Krishna Barman inaugurated the enclosure for elephants in Alipore Zoo after a major facelift.
The new home for the pachyderms spans over 12,000 square metre which is nearly ten times the size of the old enclosure that only had a 1,991 square metre area.
"We selected Sunday for the inauguration because today is World Elephant Day. The widening of the space for the jumbos had become imperative with the Central Zoo Authority prodding the zoo authorities for increasing the space for free movement of the animals," said state Forest minister Binay Krishna Barman.
Rani and Tithi- the two elephants are a major attraction in the zoo, particularly for children.
"The waterbody at the front portion of the enclosure has been cleaned and beautified. Natural grass has been laid and shower has been fitted for bathing of the elephants. The trees inside the new enclosure - Aswattha, Neem, Deodar and Krishnachura – are surrounded by small brick walls so that the elephants can't uproot them," Zoo director Asis Kumar Samanta said, adding that the animals love open space to roam around and enjoy nature.
The cost for expanding the enclosure has been Rs 1.72 crore. It may be mentioned that in 2009, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had banned elephants in zoos but had made an exception for Alipore zoo and had told the state Forest department that they could keep two elephants at the most, by expanding the enclosure.
"We are happy that the CZA has allowed us to keep elephants in Alipore Zoo. We have elephants here since its inception and the animal is associated with our sentiment," Barman said.
The zoo authorities were again prodded by CZA in 2015-16 and there was apprehension that the zoo will lose the jumbos, being unable to meet the CZA guidelines for keeping the elephants.
After a number of sleepless nights, the zoo authorities, in consultation with experts, chalked out a comprehensive plan for widening of the elephant enclosure.
The enclosures for animals like leopard, hyena and jackal needed to be shifted to another place, to broaden the area of the jumbos.
The old elephant enclosure, with a moat, a shed and trees, was inaugurated in 1999 by the then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. Before that, elephants used to remain chained in an enclosure one-tenth the size of the current one.