Delhi Zoo plans birdwatching tours for students

The Delhi Zoo is planning to launch birdwatching tours this winter once the migratory birds start visiting the city.

To start with, zoo authorities plan to rope in all city schools, including government and private, to send in groups of around 50 students for the tours over weekends. Migratory birds visit the city between October and February.

“We have identified a few spots where we will create a small trail, pitch tents and provide binoculars to the groups, who will be led by volunteers. We also plan to screen wildlife movies for them. This will be a crucial new feature to the overall zoo experience for participants,” said Suneesh Buxy, director, Delhi zoo.

The plan is part of the zoo’s 100-day programme to give itself a facelift. Others include making it a “no single-use plastic zone”, to refurbishing of animal enclosures, building cycle tracks and installing water ATMs, among others.

The zoo has a footfall of around 15,000 -18,000 visitors on weekends and holidays, said officials.

According to experts, the zoo already has a good population of free birds and offers a natural habitat as well as food supply. It will be a good initiative to shift the focus from caged exotic species to spotting free animals.

“The Delhi zoo has pelicans and painted storks as its resident birds nesting here. They have a habitat ready with ponds, fish, algae for birds to feast on. Birdwatching tours could be a healthy, informative, fun activity here, as a lot of local birds migration also happens. During the winter, migratory bird species such as ducks, wagtails, warblers and fly-catchers come in,” said Pankaj Gupta of Delhi Bird Foundation.

Besides, the zoo authorities have set up a committee to look into the existing enclosures wherever refurbishing is required. “We have set up a committee for the task, which is yet to be approved by the union ministry of environment and forests. Also, we plan to step up security of enclosures of carnivores to avoid any untoward incidents,” said Buxy.

Also, the plan includes training of zookeepers, who are the first point-of-contact between the animals and the public, in animal handling equipment.

For a better experience of visitors, officials said, they plan to deploy volunteers to assist them from the entry itself and provide a guided tour. “We plan to get young college students from zoology or botany background for the task. The zoo area is vast and people do not know which path to take. This will help them have a complete tour with information on the species,” he said.