The making of the Reliance Animal Farm

The Central Zoo Authority has authorized the Jamnagar de Reliance Zoo in Gujarat to import several endangered, vulnerable and near threatened animals from Mexico, according to information obtained under the RTI Act.

The authorization, given on February 8 of this year, paved the way for the Greens Zoological, Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom, as the Reliance Zoo is ostensibly called, to acquire 286 animals of 17 species in a zoo in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Nuevo Leon. They include 50 hybrid Bengal tigers and as many hybrid lions and American flamingos; 12 African cheetahs; 10 jaguars and as many leopards, cougars, ocelots, margays, Mexican hairy dwarf porcupines, jaguarundis, American black bears, bobcats, Linnaeus two-toed sloth; eight brown bears, eight of each of the two species of anteaters.

Classes tigers as an “endangered” species; African lions, cheetahs and giant anteaters as “vulnerable”; jaguars as “near threatened”.

Reliance Zoo, apparently an “” Anant Ambani, the youngest son of the business owner and India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is to be developed on 250.1 acres. The company’s detailed project report for the proposed zoo was approved by the Central Zoo Authority in early 2019. The CZA is a statutory body of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change responsible for conserving biodiversity and overseeing zoos across the country.

According to his, the zoo will be home to a wide variety of animal species, including barking deer, pangolins, Himalayan tahrs, owls, pheasants, wild boars, rhinos, Asian elephants, bears. sloths, fishing cats, Bengal tigers, jackals, komodo. dragon, bengal monitor lizard, water monitor lizard, anaconda, desert fox, African lion, striped hyena.

Although many mainstream media have reported that Reliance Zoo will be the “”, it won’t be the biggest, even in India. The in Tirupati covers more than 3,000 acres, nearly 12 times the area of ​​the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom site. Those of Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Mysuru are also much larger. And they are all managed by the respective state governments.

Domestic transfers

In October 2020, the CZA authorized Reliance Zoo to take 35 leopards from Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh, Gujarat, and 25 more the following month, according to RTI’s response.

Sakkarbaug Zoo, opened in 1863 by Junagadh’s Nawab, Mahabat Khanji II, and spanning 207 acres, is a breeding center for the Asiatic lion and is also home to the Indian wild ass, Asiatic cheetah and the chinkara.

In February 2021, it was reported that Reliance Zoo had taken a pair of black panthers from Assam State Zoo in exchange for four zebras from Israel. According to the , the transfer sparked protests from members of the Chirakhana Suraksha Mancha, an organization formed in 2017 to safeguard the Assam Zoo, which was established in 1957 and is the only black panther breeding center in the country .

“In accordance with the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority, an exchange can only take place between government zoos. Ambani Zoo in Jamnagar is a private zoo, ”Rajkumar Baishya, secretary general of Chirakhana Suraksha Mancha, told me. “There is a clear directive and rule on this. “

Bobbeeta Sharma, Secretary General of Congress, who also opposed the transfer, the federal“Although a senior forestry official claimed that the transfer was made as part of an exchange program in which the Jamnagar center would help Assam acquire four zebras from Israel, the document he said Product does not mention such an exchange and only states that the animals were ‘acquired’ for ‘display’ purposes? “

The 2009 Zoo Recognition Rules do not address the issue of the exchange or transfer of animals between a private zoo and a public zoo. The 2008 CZA covers this issue, but even they do not prohibit such a transfer or exchange.

The guidelines simply state: “When approving an exchange program, the zoo’s track record of successful infant rearing, health care and maintenance should be assessed based on of the appropriate age. “

Since the Reliance Zoo Master Plan was not approved until February 2019, it is unclear how it has such a track record to qualify for the exchange or transfer of animals from a public zoo.

I emailed the CZA a series of questions about its various approvals at the Reliance Zoo. This report will be updated if they respond.

Sourodipto Sanyal is a freelance journalist.

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