Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling: The ‘Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park’, also known as the Himalayan Zoological Park, is the largest high-altitude Zoo in India - spanning 68 acres (28 hectares) at an altitude of about 7000 feet. This massive Himalayan Zoological Park atop Darjeeling Hills at 27.0586 N 88.254 E – just 2 kilometres north of Darjeeling city centre and is popularly referred to as the ‘Darjeeling Zoo’. This zoo is known for its impeccable treatment and maintenance of the animals, plants and the property.
Although the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park falls under the category of small zoos according to the classification of the Central Zoo Authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, this Zoo is still the largest high-altitude Zoo in India owing to the sizeable area it covers. This park is a joint venture between Government of West Bengal and Government of India and is funded for its research and maintenance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India.
There are 50 different types of Orchids from Aerides Vandarum to Vanda Stangenia whose host trees have been rally were Champ ( Michelia), Pipli ( Bucklandia populanea ), Kawla, Maya ( Eriobotrya ), katus, Bhadrashe and Buk.
The highlight of this Zoo is that it specializes in captive breeding Himalayan Alpine Animals such as the Snow Leopards, Siberian Tigers, Red Panda, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Tahr, Gorals, Tibetan Wolf, Himalayan Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Himalayan Salamander and Satyr Tragopan which draws more than 3, 00,000 tourists annually. The Darjeeling Zoo is the only Zoo in India that specializes in and is internationally recognized for its Captive-breeding and Conservation Programs of Red Panda, Snow Leopards and the Tibetan Wolf, in fact, this Zoo is the first established Zoo in the world to be breeding the Tibetan Wolf in captivity and is the first South Asian Zoo to be captive-breeding the Snow Leopard and the Siberian Tiger.
When the Snow Leopards were transferred to the Darjeeling Zoo from the United States; from Zurich in Switzerland and from Leh in Ladakh in 1983; the ‘Captive-Breeding Program started full fledged.
When the Red Pandas were transferred to the Darjeeling Zoo from the Cologne Zoo in Germany; the Madrid Zoo in Spain; from Belgium and from the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands in 1994, the Red Panda Captive Breeding was launched. This paved the way for Captive-breeding Siberian Tigers, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Tahr, Gorals, Tibetan Wolf and Satyr Tragopan.
Also on display are the Yak, Musk Deer, the Barking Deer, Sambhar Deer, Black Bear, Himalayan Palm Civet, Grey Langur and Tigers.
In the endeavour to maintain ecological balance in the Himalayas, the initiatives that the Darjeeling Zoo has taken are:
1. Captive-breeding and Conservation of the endangered Alpine species of the Himalayas.
2. Initiated awareness among the locals and the visitors thereby educating and motivating them on the importance of conserving the eco-system of the Himalayas and how the locals could actually contribute to the cause.
3. Workshops and Seminars on ‘Conservation Breeding of Snow Leopards are held regularly where the country’s eminent experts, scientists of nature conservation, wildlife biologists and veterinarians converge to share best practices and recommendations on ‘Captive Management’ from around the world.
4. Have initiated applied research on the Alpine animals’ biology, behaviour and healthcare.
5. The Staff of the Zoo – both technical and functional are trained regularly and also award one top performer every year.
The Zoo also houses a well-equipped Veterinary Hospital with facilities of Operation Theatre, pathology laboratory, X-ray, dispensary, nursery quarantine ward and post mortem room as well as an in-patient ward for animals and birds.
The Zoo also publishes booklets on its fauna and flora which are of great interest to nature and wildlife enthusiasts:
1. Proceedings of Workshop on Snow Leopards at Darjeeling Zoo in West Bengal.
2. Birds of Darjeeling Zoo.
3. Trees of Darjeeling Zoo.
4. Non-flowering plants of Darjeeling Zoo.
Animal Adoption Scheme is an initiative taken by the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling in order to involve visitors in the care and conservation of endangered species of the earth by which to instill a sense of responsibility in humans towards the other living forms on earth.
The annual adoption charges per species are:
1. Royal Bengal Tiger – Rs. 1,20,000.
2. Snow Leopard – Rs. 95, 000.
3. Asiatic Black Bear – Rs. 80, 000.
4. Red Panda – Rs. 50, 000.
5. Slow Loris – Rs. 50, 000.
6. Sambar Deer – Rs. 40, 000.
7. Yak – Rs. 40, 000.
8. Blue Sheep – Rs. 40, 000.
The other animals in the Zoo cost less than Rs. 40, 000 per annum per head for adoption. This information is given so visitors are aware and come prepared to take up a noble deed as this.
Goodness of Animal Adoption for visitors:
- A framed official Zoo-certified 'Certificate of Adoption' will be given to the donor.
- Your name or your company name or logo can be displayed at the enclosure of the animal that you adopt.
- 5 complimentary passes to the Zoo are given for a visit on any working day.
- All animal adoption contributions and donations are exempted U/S 80G Income Tax Act 1961.
- The pride and joy that comes with engaging in one of the most unique ways of conserving endangered species.
- The sponsor is given regular feedback about the animal and its maintenance.