Delhi Zoo authority rolls out winter plan for inmates

Rita and Mani, a pair of chimpanzees in the Delhi Zoo, play peek-a-boo with a woollen blanket provided by the zoo authorities to protect them from cold.

With the chill in the air, the authorities at the national zoological park  in Delhi have started implementing dietary and systemic changes to prepare their caged wards for the oncoming cold period.

According to zoo officials, arrangements have been made for each species according to their requirements. For instance, heaters are being provided for the big cats like lions and tigers in their enclosures. For the snakes, wooden platforms are being set up in their cage to keep the slithering reptiles warm.

As for the wide varieties of birds, the cages are being covered with jute cloth, especially the cages containing exotic variety. ‘The two chimpanzees, Rita and Mani, get a woollen blanket each owing to their ability to think and use it,’ said zoo curator Riyaz Khan. Khan said the food habits of the animals and birds differ during the winter season.

‘There are over 1,000 inmates from all corners of the country. Some like meat, others are strict vegetarians, so we need to cater for them accordingly. During winter, big cats like the lions, tigers, and jaguars often get hungry and eat more.’

‘During summer, each eats only 10 kilos of meat daily, but during the winter, they eat about 12 kilos meat. So we feed them extra, it helps the animals keep warm,’ he said. He also said that food is given at measured intervals. There are 10 tigers – white and Royal Bengal variety – of which six are males and four are females.

‘As for the deer and bears, they take amla (Indian gooseberry) and relish it. Each takes around 50 gm of amla per day. Bears are given their favourite bread dipped in honey,’ Khan said.

The birds eat more chillies during this season and also take peas and groundnuts, Khan adds.

‘In general, for all the animals and bird varieties, we give more milk and fruits to help them stay fit,’ he added. Khan also said that lot of care and attention is needed for the zoo inmates, as the winter is a dreaded period for them.

The daily zoo timings also change. It opens at 9 am instead of 9.30 am, and closes at 4 pm instead of 4.30 pm.

Spread over an area of 240 acres, the zoo has over a thousand varieties of mammals, reptiles and avian species, including many now listed endangered in India.

Leopards, the Indian rhinoceros, hippopotamus, black bucks, Indian gazelles and lion-tailed macaques are some of the commonly found animals in the zoo. It also has nearly all varieties of deer in the country and the white tiger from Rewa.
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