Zoological Parks in India
Alipore Zoological Gardens information
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Alipore Zoological Gardens

The Zoological Garden, Alipore (also informally called the Alipore Zoo or Calcutta 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, who was reputed to have been over 250 years old when he died in 2006. It is also home to one of the few captive breeding projects involving the Manipur brow-antlered deer. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kolkata, it draws huge crowds during the winter season, especially during December and January. The highest attendance till date was on January 1, 2018 with 110,000 visitors. The zoo had its roots in a private menagerie established by Governor General of India, Richard Wellesley, established around 1800 in his summer home at Barrackpore near Kolkata, as part of the Indian Natural History Project. The first superintendent of the menagerie was the famous Scottish physician zoologist Francis Buchanan-Hamilton. Buchanan-Hamilton returned to England with Wellesley in 1805 following the Governor-General's recall by the Court of Directors in London. The collection from this era are documented by watercolours by Charles D'Oyly, and a visit by the famous French botanist Victor Jacquemont. Sir Stamford Raffles visited the menagerie in 1810, encountering his first tapir there, and doubtless used some aspects of the menagerie as an inspiration for the London Zoo. The foundation of zoos in major cities around the world caused a growing thought among the British community in Kolkata that the menagerie should be upgraded to a formal zoological garden. Credence to such arguments was lent by an article in the now-defunct Calcutta Journal of Natural History's July 1841 issue. In 1873, the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Richard Temple formally proposed the formation of a zoo in Kolkata, and the Government finally allotted land for the zoo based on to the joint petition of the Asiatic Society and Agri-Horticultural Society. The zoo was formally opened in Alipore - a posh Kolkata suburb, and inaugurated on 1 January 1876 by Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. (Some reports place the inauguration on an alternate date of 27 December 1875).[8] The initial stock consisted of the private menagerie of Carl Louis Schwendler (1838 – 1882), a German electrician who was posted in India for a feasibility study of electrically lighting Indian Railway stations. Gifts were also accepted from the general public. The initial collection consisted of the following animals: African buffalo, Zanzibar ram, domestic sheep, four-horned sheep, hybrid Kashmiri goat, Indian antelope, Indian gazelle, sambar deer, spotted deer and hog deer It is not clear whether the Aldabra giant tortoise Adwaita was among the opening stock of animals. The animals at Barrackpore Park were added to the collection over the first few months of 1886, significantly increasing its size. The zoo was thrown open to the public on 6 May 1876. It grew based on gifts from British and Indian nobility - like Raja Suryakanta Acharya of Mymensingh in whose honour the open air tiger enclosure is named the Mymensingh Enclosure. Other contributors who donated part or all of their private menagerie to the Alipore Zoo included the Maharaja of Mysore Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. The park was initially run by an honorary managing committee which included Schwendler and the famous botanist George King. The first Indian superintendent of the zoo was Ram Brahma Sanyal, who did much to improve the standing of the Alipore Zoo and achieved good captive breeding success in an era when such initiatives were rarely heard of. One such success story of the zoo was a live birth of the rare Sumatran rhinoceros in 1889. The next pregnancy in captivity occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1997, but ended with a miscarriage. Cincinnati Zoo finally recorded a live birth in 2001. Alipore Zoo was a pioneer among zoos in the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century under Sanyal, who published the first handbook on captive animal keeping. The zoo had an unusually high scientific standard for its time, and the record of the parasite genus Cladotaenia (Cohn, 1901) is based upon cestodes (flatworms) found in an Australian bird that died at the zoo. Kalākaua, the last king of Hawaii, visited the zoo on 28 May 1881 during his world tour. The zoo remains one of the most popular winter tourist attractions in Kolkata. The footfall figures in 2016 showed an annual visitation of almost 3 million — more than any other tourist attraction in Kolkata, and a peak of over 81,000 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, Asiatic lion, jaguar, hippopotamus, great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, reticulated giraffe, Grant's zebra, emu, and Indian elephant. Previously, other megafauna like the Panthera hybrids and the giant eland were present. The zoo sports a large collection of attractive birds, including some threatened species - 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. 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. It also boasts of a glass-walled enclosure for tigers, the first of its kind in India. 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.

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