Despite much opposition from citizens and activists, seven endangered Humboldt penguins will be on display for the public in Mumbai’s Byculla zoo from Saturday. Their newly built enclosure will be inaugurated on Friday.
Microbiologists reviewed the condition of the 1,550-sq-ft enclosure, especially the water, before giving zoo authorities the go ahead to move the penguins to the pen from their 250-sq-ft quarantine area. “We shifted the penguins early [on March 6] as we wanted to give them at least a week to adapt to their new home,” a zoo department official told Hindustan Times.
The Rs 64-crore project – spearheaded by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray – had come under massive criticism after one of the penguins brought from Coex Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, to the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo in July had died in October. Dory and the others were to be put on public display at the zoo in November. The species is native to Peru and Chile in South America.
After Dory died of an infection, zoo authorities now claim that the entire exhibit area is disinfected and that they conduct tests repeatedly to check for and prevent infections. Byculla zoo Director Dr Sanjay Tripathi told Mumbai Mirror, “The penguins are hale and hearty...We will ensure they are not stressed due to overexposure.”
Zoo officials expect a huge turnout on Saturday and said they “may restrict the number visitors allowed inside based on the vets’ advice”, if the rush puts the penguins in discomfort. While civic officials plan to charge an entry fee of Rs 100 for adults and Rs 50 for children below 12 for the penguin exhibit, they have not sent the proposal for approval from senior leaders yet. The birds can be viewed now for just Rs 5, which is the entry fee for the zoo.