The Alipore Zoological Gardens also informally called the Alipore Zoo, Calcutta Zoo or Kolkata
Zoo is India
's oldest formally stated zoological park as opposed to royal and British menageries and a big tourist attraction in Kolkata, West Bengal
. It has been open as a zoo since 1876, and covers 18.81 ha (46.5 acres). It is probably best known as the home of the now expired Aldabra Giant Tortoise Adwaita, which was reputed to have been over 250 years old when it died.
It is also home to one of the few captive breeding projects involving the Manipur Brow-antlered Deer. The zoo has drawn a lot of criticism from the zoo community and conservationists in the past few decades, mainly for its cramped cages, as well as for its Panthera hybrid breeding program. A 4-month-old female baby elephant, deserted by her family, has been raised and contented to be the newest member of the zoo. She has been named 'Baby'.
The zoo remains one of the most popular winter tourist attractions in Kolkata, but revenue earned is low as gate costs are highly subsidized. The ticket prices at the gate increased from Rs 5 to Rs 10 in the winter of 2003 (a doubling from approx. 12 c to 25 c in the exchange rate of the time). The footfall figures in 2005 showed an annual visitation of almost 20 lakh (2,000,000) — more than any other tourist attraction in Kolkata, and a peak of over 25,000 on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
The zoo displays a large number of crowd-pulling megafauna, including the Royal Bengal Tiger, African Lion, Jaguar, Hippopotamus, Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Reticulated Giraffe, Grant's Zebra, Emu, Dromedary Camel and Indian Elephant. Previously, other megafauna like the Panthera hybrids and the Giant Eland were present.
The zoo sported a large collection of attractive birds, including some threatened species up until the 1980s - large parrots including a number of Macaw species, Conures, lories and lorikeets; other large birds like Touracos and Hornbills; colourful game birds like the Golden Pheasant, Lady Amherst's Pheasant and Swinhoe's Pheasant and some large flightless birds like the Emu, Cassowary and Ostrich. However, lack of pairing and exchange programs have caused a significant decline in the populations, causing some of the populations to die out.
Laid out on 45 acres (18 ha) of land, the Calcutta zoo has been unable to expand or modify its layout for over 50 years, and thus has a rather backdated plan. It contains a Reptile House (a new one has been built), a Primate House, an Elephant House, and a Panther House which opens out onto the open air enclosures for the lions and tigers. A separate Children's zoo is present, and the central water bodies inside the zoo grounds attracts migratory birds. The Calcutta Aquarium lies across the street from the zoo, and is affiliated to the zoo.
The most famous specimen in the zoo was probably the Aldabra Giant Tortoise "Adwaita", gifted to the zoo in 1875 (brought by British seafarers to Lord Clive's menagerie from Seychelles
), and reputedly over 250 years old when it died in 2006 — a contender for the longest lived animal.
The zoo is presently downsizing to meet animal comfort requirements laid down by the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI).It has also increased the number of open air enclosures.A move to a suburban location was also contemplated, but was not undertaken based on the recommendations of the CZAI, which claimed the Alipore site was of historical significance. The CZAI also cleared the zoo of malpractices in an evaluation performed in late 2005,even though the zoo has continued to attract bad press.
Ecological Significance Of The Zoo Grounds:
The zoo is also on the flyway for several migratory birds like the Sarus Crane, and sports a sizable wetland inside the zoo grounds. Since the zoo is enveloped by urban settlements for miles, the zoo wetlands are the only resting spot for some of the birds and are a focus of conservationists in Kolkata. However, the number of migratory bird visiting the zoo dropped from documented highs by over 40% in the winter of 2004–2005. Experts attribute the causes of the decline to increased pollution, new construction of highrises in the area, increasing threats in the summer grounds of the birds and declining quality of the water bodies at the zoo.