The directors of zoos from 25 States, senior forest officials, resource persons, officials and staff of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) will debate on issues concerning the country’s zoological gardens at the two-day National Conference for Zoo Directors that began in Mysuru on January 18. The event has been organised by Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, better known as Mysuru zoo, in collaboration with the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
The conference deals with issues relating to master planning and building the national capacity for species management and conservation breeding. Experts in the field will be sharing their experiences and knowledge at the conclave.
Mysuru zoo is hosting the zoo directors’ conference for the fourth time. It had hosted the conference in 2001, 2013, and 2017. This is the second conference within 2022-23. The previous conclave was held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
Mayor Shivakumar, Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest Department, Bengaluru, ZAK Chairman Shivakumar M., Central Zoo Authority Member Secretary Sanjay Shukla, ZAK Member Secretary B.P. Ravi, Mysuru Zoo Executive Director Ajit Kulkarni, ZAK members Rashmi Rechanna and Gokul Govardhan were present at the inaugural session of the conference at Radisson Blu Hotel in Mysuru.
Indian zoos attract 90 million footfalls
ZAK Member Secretary B.P. Ravi said zoos have transformed from ‘centers of conservation education’ into ‘centers for ecological solutions’. They are engaged in captive breeding, restocking of species, and rewilding, besides coming up with solutions for human-animal conflict. “Therefore, I consider the zoos as the centers that provide way-outs for ecological issues.”
Zoos in India attract nearly 90 million (9 crore) visitors annually. Out of 766 districts, 166 districts have zoos with one zoo for every four districts, he explained.
Climate change and ecological destruction were turning out to be the biggest threats to humanity, he said.
Karnataka zoos top in India
Central Zoo Authority Member Secretary Sanjay Shukla, in his address, said 68% of the wildlife population has seen a decline between 1970-2016 due to unprecedented loss of biodiversity. “There have been challenges but zoos are playing a pivotal role in conservation education besides exhibiting animals and birds for leisure. The experience and knowledge gained by visitors, especially children, is aplenty,” he added.
Karnataka and West Bengal have maximum number of zoos. Some zoos, particularly those in North-East States, were facing some challenges while Karnataka is in a good position with regard to the management of zoos and earning revenue.
With the revenue of State zoos crossing ₹100 crore, Mr. Shukla suggested that some of this revenue could be directed towards research, improving facilities for visitors and animal keepers.
At the conference, experts will throw light on preventing trafficking of wild animals, particularly exotic species, he said.
Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest Department, Bengaluru, spoke about the Karnataka government’s plans to establish new zoos and how the purpose of zoos has changed in the present environment.
A book – It All Happened at the zoo – authored by Dr. J.K. Sunder Raj, a medical practitioner associated with Mysuru zoo, was released. The proceedings of the 2022 national zoo directors’ conference at Bhubaneswar were released, besides a newsletter on ex-situ conservation and a cartoon book in five languages for creating awareness on snakes.