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Depleting Forests Threaten Animals in Darjeeling Zoo
(December,  2002)

           DARJEELING: Rare species of animals like the red pandas and Tibetan wolves in the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in West Bengal are facing a threat due to rising temperatures in the hilly area. Darjeeling, which lies nestled in the Himalayas, is famous for its tea-gardens.

          The zoo in Darjeeling houses snow leopards, mountain goat 'gural', tigers and a variety of endangered birds apart from other animals. But scientists say the animals are in danger due to human encroachment and depleting green cover in the hills. "If the forest is (further) cleared in the Darjeeling hills, it will have a great impact apart from the landslide or the soil erosion. The temperature has arisen because there is no more green cover. So it cannot absorb additional carbon dioxide and it will be added to the atmosphere," said Piyushkant Jha, professor of geography and vice-chancellor of North Bengal university.

           Two years ago the State high court had ordered an inquiry after three red pandas and one snow leopard died in mysterious circumstances. The zoo keeps animals at different altitudes and officials said they were taking all steps to keep them comfortable. "As we are keeping animals from different altitudes, we have to arrange for them in different seasons. Animals from foothill we have to make arrangement during winters. Animals from the higher altitudes we have to make arrangements during summers," said BR Sharma, the zoo director.

           "We have to arrange for cooling, just like having exhaust fans and there is no leopard enclosure during summers and animals like leopards or ... those who feel uncomfortable during winters, we have arranged for them. Otherwise we do not have to worry that much in a high altitude zoological park like Darjeeling," he added.

           The Padmaja Naidu Zoo has five tigers, five snow leopards, 16 Himalayan wolves and 10 leopards, 27 birds and 93 reptiles. The zoo spread over an area of 44 hectares attracts 300,000 visitors every year.


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