Angels – God’s gift to the Mother Earth. I am not referring to Humans here.(gotcha!) I am talking about Animals, the butchered wives of the world – mistreated, poached and at times demonized.
Victoria’s Angels – The Forgotten heroes of Mumbai.
Our city, Mumbai has been blessed with only 1 such house for our secret angels. It goes by the name of Victoria. Victoria Gardens aka Ranichi Bagh aka Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan commonly (read rarely) called Byculla Zoo.
Before the critics jump the gun to justify the obsolescence of this place, I concede the fact that Government authorities, environmentalists, animal rights activists and us, citizens have defeated ourselves. We are responsible for the pitiable condition of the animals in the only zoo of our city.
Yes, a much-needed face-lift is on the cards. Hopefully, once the development is completed, our zoo flourishes into an excellent hub of flora and fauna.
Wishful thinking aside, I paid visit to Byculla zoo to peep into the biosphere of Mumbai and boy it wasn’t as bad as some reviews on the internet crafted.
We were greeted by security personnel who stopped us from barging in the zoo with tiffins(which I mistakenly carried). I was asked to finish eating it and only then allowed entry. (Zoo +1)
As we set foot inside the zoo, the chirping of birds and frenetic movement of monkeys was palpable. We toured most part of the zoo and came across following exhibits –
In one of the exhibits, we found a surprising species – the Emu. Popularly mistaken as Black Ostrich (some of the visitors actually coined that term!) This black colored giant sized bird saw many visitors flocking towards its exhibit. Many of us clicked photographs of zookeeper feeding them and cleaning their shed.
I was particularly amazed by Hippopotamus amphibius. The third-largest type of land mammal lived true to its name. We saw 4 of these mammals in 2 different exhibits. “River horse” in Greek, makes real sense given that we saw 2 of them literally dozing inside the water, reminding us of the standing up sleep pattern of horses. Those 2 hippos were 95% submerged/floating in water, with only some part of back peeping outside. For more than 10 minutes, we were wondering as to how do these Hippopotamidae breathe! Best sight was of the baby hippo lumbering across her mother (I guess) and leaning towards her while eating grass. Arguably, the best exhibit in the zoo!
Horses, well, not really. Blue bull or Nilgai
One of the first exhibits any visitor will see, close to the zoo’s entrance. Prima facie, it looks like a horse given the mane, tail and overall physical structure. By no means is it blue in color, (not even a blue tinge / shade)! And yes, although it is a bull – historical facts support my misconception of it being a horse. During Mughal emperor Aurangzeb‘s reign (1658–1707) of India, the nilgai was known by the name nilghor (“nil” for “blue” and “ghor” for “horse”). [Padhi, S.; Panigrahi, G.K.; Panda, S. (2004). The Wild Animals of India. Delhi: Biotech Books. pp. 26–7. ISBN 81-7622-106-6.]
Different types of parrots (names of which I fail to recount) with colorful wings, different shades (grey, green, blue) and also of different sizes (from tiny, fist-sized ones to larger wingspan ones). The chirping sound was a refreshing experience. Ironically, while we were gazing at these birds trapped / shackled in the cages, a crow flew over us as if to flaunt its freedom, a perquisite very few birds can enjoy.
This exhibit attracted foreigners who accompanied us. The Elephas maximus seemed to have caught attention of the South-east Asians. Both the elephants were being attended by the zookeepers and were far away from the fence. Due to paucity of time, we had to bid them adieu.
We geared up for a fascinating and thrilling encounter with Python molurus aka Indian python. With an adrenaline rush, we stormed the exhibit to witness a lukewarm response. This reptile, belonging to the family of non-venomous snakes, was apparently sleeping in the water tub, untouched and indifferent. While we were imagining the hissing or rattling, in reality there was absolutely no movement whatsoever. To our surprise, a bunch of kids tried teasing the Pythonidae (the actual name) by pelting a stone. The serpent didn’t move one bit. We reported the kids action to the authorities in order to prevent repetition of such an incident. As boredom settled thanks to the unconcerned Mr.reptile, we left the exhibit disappointed.
Apart from the above, we met monkeys, flamingos, peacocks, black bucks, Sambhar and spotted deer.
Friends we couldn’t meet –
- Humboldt Penguins – well we couldn’t get to see them. Actually, the main reason why Byculla Zoo came into the limelight was the arrival of unexpected guests – the acquatic lifeless birds from Southern Hemisphere. However, due to administrative reasons, the exhibit of South American penguins was inaccessible.
- Bear – a mountain-esque layout distinctly spans across the Bear exhibit. However, the authorities explained that the presence of bear can be found few and far in between. Most of the times, it lies safely inside the mound and hence the enthusiasts and visitors can’t greet and meet the carnivore.
- Crocodile – after minutes of croc-searching near lakes, ponds and different exhibits, we found no crocodile! Thus our wish of saying – “See you later, alligator” remained incomplete and unfulfilled. (yes, I know alligators and crocodiles are two different creatures altogether, but who cares? – both won’t understand our language!)
- Hyenas, and now absent Lion (last one lioness Jimmy died in 2014), Tigers (till 2005)
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad museum
Ironically, the exit of the zoo looked much more majestic and attractive than the entrance. Arches of the exit gate, the architectural style was really fascinating. After the zoo, we visited the museum which was typical of any such museum. The artefacts, instruments, utensils made of gold, copper, wood – descriptions were illuminating. One new find for me was the ancient Indian card game by the name – Ganjifa.
Overall, a decent 3-4hr outing at a location nested inside the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps.
To the city that never stops surprising!
Trip Time – 8:15 am – 2pm
Date – 11th March, 2017
Trip Cost – Travel Cost + 5 (Zoo entry fee) + 10 (Museum entry fee)
Travel – Via Train
Closest station on Central Railway Line – Byculla (bang opposite)
Closest station on Western Railway Line – Mahalaxmi (distance-wise)