Two of the city’s largest residents can trumpet in glory about being able to live on as Mumbaikars. Four years after it directed all zoos move their elephants to natural habitats, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has now permitted the Byculla zoo authorities to retain its pachyderms Lakshmi, 55, and Anarkali, 48.
In November 2009, the CZA had ordered all zoos in the country to shift elephants to national parks, tiger reserves or sanctuaries due to concerns over trauma due to lack of space for free movement.
According to civic officials a two-member expert committee had visited the zoo following the CZA’s directions. “Subsequently, a sub-committee formed to take the call on the shifting of the elephants has decided that we can retain the elephants,” a joyous senior civic official told dna.
Zoo director Anil Anjankar, too, confirmed the development. “This is the first communication since the CZA’s 2009 order,” he said.
Forest officials from various states had visited the zoo to check the elephants but did not get back. “Due to their advanced age, the forest officials felt they were unsuitable for work like patrolling or pulling logs. Once they realised this they were not interested in the elephants,” added the official. “There were concerns about their inability to adjust to new surroundings after relocation too.”
According to him, “The duo has lived together for many years and can’t be separated. Whoever wanted them would have to take both of them.” This was one of the reasons cited by zoo authorities while writing to CZA several times asking for an exemption to the relocation.
While rules stipulate that elephants should be retired after 65 years, both Lakshmi and Anarkali have been captive in the zoo for more than 35 years.
Currently, they are housed in a common enclosure of 4,000 square feet, which now seems set to remain their home for longer.