Lion safari roars back to life at Vandalur zoo after Covid break

Safari area houses three lions and four lionesses at present; QR code-based ticketing system to provide hassle-free entry for visitors to enjoy the animals at zoo
A lioness relaxing at the Vandalur zoo on Monday. Lion safari resumed at the zoo after three years | special arrangement
A lioness relaxing at the Vandalur zoo on Monday. Lion safari resumed at the zoo after three years | special arrangement

CHENNAI:  Lion safari, a major crowd puller at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park previously, resumed after a gap of three years, on Monday. As part of wildlife week celebrations, forest minister M Mathiventhan launched the facility along with the state-of-the-art veterinary care unit in the zoo. The lion and deer safari of the park sprawls over 147 acres of scrub jungle. 

The zoo was forced to suspend the safari due to Covid-19 in March 2020, after most of the resident lions got infected and two died. The same year, two more healthy lions died of different ailments bringing down the total count to nine lions.

But thanks to the animal exchange programme, the zoo was able to add a few lions. One lioness was brought from Lucknow zoo and a male lion from Bannerghatta Biological Park in Karnataka in exchange for two tigers, the zoo authorities told TNIE. Now, the safari area houses seven lions, which include three lions and four lionesses.

The deer safari area houses a large number of sambar, spotted and barking deer. To enhance the visitor’s wild safari experience, the park has taken steps to lay a separate route dedicated only to the safari, where the visitors pass through dense woodland to reach the safari. The protection wall and the fencing have been repaired. The percolation pond and the water holes have been renovated. A/C buses are being procured to benefit the visitation into the safari, the authorities said. 

The forest minister also opened a newly constructed operation theatre at the zoo’s veterinary care unit with well-equipped advanced machinery to address emergency procedures for small animals, including birds, up to big cats like lions and tigers. He credited Chief Minister MK Stalin for it, saying he was taking a keen interest in conservation.

During the pandemic, one of the biggest lacunas was the hospital, which needed to be modernised on a priority basis. The vets didn’t have even thermal body temperature scanners. Most of the enclosures were also in poor condition due to lack of maintenance. 

A leopard had died inside a squeeze cage due to a mechanical malfunction when the veterinarians were collecting the nasal swab samples for Covid test. Vandalur zoo director Srinivas R Reddy told TNIE the veterinary hospital is well-equipped for any contingency. “A pair of Malayan Giant Squirrels that were seized at Tiruchy airport recently and declared unfit for travel back will be brought to Vandalur zoo for care and treatment.”

Meanwhile, the zoo also introduced a QR code-based ticketing system to provide hassle-free entry for visitors. The visitors will now have seamless entry into the zoo and do not need to stand in queue. This system will be operational for entry, vehicle parking, BOV usage and the entry to lion and deer safari.

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