The National Zoological Park in Delhi is home to many species of birds and animals. The harsh Delhi winter is hard for the inhabitants of the zoo. The caretakers here make every effort to make things comfortable for the animals so they can survive the cold temperatures. Here’s a look at what they do to make this possible.
The National Zoological Park, earlier known as the Delhi Zoo, is spread over 176 acres within the premises of the Purana Quila in the heart of the capital city of India.
Purana Quila is a 16th century citadel, within which lies this green island, home to around 130 bird and animal species from various parts of the world.
“Delhi is geographically located in that region where every season is harsh. Summers are extremely hot and winters very cold. For the animals of the zoo, we take care to make sure that special facilities are provided to them to make them as comfortable as possible,” says Mr RA Khan, Curator (Edn), Delhi Zoo.
The weather this year has been a little different from the usual Delhi winters — it has been much warmer and there’s been no rain at all. However, the animals still need to be protected from the sudden dips in temperature, especially at night.
“During the winter months, which are from November to March in North India, the birds and animals are taken special care of. Extra food is provided and extra warmth is provided. Each species has specific requirements and this is taken care of by the authorities, to the best of our ability,” adds the Curator.
Some of the animals that get special attention during this season are:
1. The Indian Elephant
During the winter months, the elephants get plenty of sugarcane and a lot more peepal leaves. Jaggery too is added to their diet. Jaggery in winter helps to keep the body warm.
2. The Primates
Primates like the Hoolock Gibbon and the Lion Tailed Macaque are given dried paddy to sleep on in their enclosures and a lot of extra fruits, bread, milk, peanuts and chickpeas to eat. Animals feel a lot more hungry in the winter months and eating many more times during the day helps to keep them warm from inside.
3. The Hippopotamus
Hippos and all other herbivorous animals are provided with extra gooseberry in their diet. This balances out the requirement of Vitamin C through food intake itself.
4. Deer and Antelope
All deer and antelopes in the zoo live in large enclosures. They are provided with a lot of dry paddy to sit on, which they can also eat without a problem. The increased gooseberry in their diet helps them balance the requirement for Vitamin C. Salt licks are placed at various points in the enclosures — licking the salt helps the animals digest their food.
5. Himalayan Black Bear
Though bears are known to hibernate in winter, the bears in the zoo are provided with comforts to battle the cold winter months. They are given extra meat in their diet, along with heaters in their enclosures and dried paddy to rest on.
In the reptile section there are a few snakes in the enclosures of this zoo. During winter, it is very difficult to see these reptiles as they hibernate till the weather gets warmer. To make them comfortable, a lot of dry paddy is stacked in their enclosures. Pots, with holes in them, are kept upside down with light bulbs inside all around the enclosure. As the earthen pots get warm, the reptiles usually coil themselves around the pots, taking in the heat. Snake charmer baskets too are kept inside the enclosure, giving the snakes a choice to coil up inside them to keep themselves warm.
7. The Big Cats
The big cats — the tigers, lions and leopards — are taken care of with extra meat in their diets. They are provided with wooden platforms in their enclosures so they can rest on the warm wooden surface. Heaters also help to keep their enclosures warm.
Many migratory birds visit the Delhi Zoo during winter months. Ducks, teals, coots and pintails are easily found in the waterholes of the zoo. As always, the Painted Storks nest here during winter. Come spring, in March, these birds will fly away to cooler climates in the north. Extra fish is put into the two water bodies in the zoo to help these birds feed more during winter.
It is commendable that the zoo authorities are doing a lot to care for the animals and birds on the premises of the zoo. More can be done of course, which is an ongoing process at the National Zoological Park.
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About the author: Aparna Menon is a freelance writer, writing for various newspapers for the past 10 years. Her main fields of interest are wildlife, heritage and history. A keen traveler, she loves to read and write and does a lot of art work too.