The Vision Plan for Indian Zoos was released during the two-day conference held in Gujarat by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. The two-day national conference was organized for zoo directors and veterinarians by the Central Zoo Authority and hosted by Sardar Patel Zoological Park, Kevadia, Gujarat. The primary aim of this national conference was to discuss the new areas in zoo management and ex-situ conservation in the country. The main focus of the vision plan is the conservation of local birds and animals and upgrading Indian zoos to meet global standards by providing better care for animals, advanced research, and an impressive visitor experience.
There is a three-stage planning process for the vision plan: framing approach and methodology, assessing the existing situation, and formulating a Vision Plan.
A ten-year-long plan is developed through data mining and consultation with stakeholders to build zoos that have global standards. The plan introduces ten pillars of change for the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Indian zoos. It contains specific targets and timelines to achieve the Call to Action in 10 years. These pillars include increasing ex-situ conservation of endangered native species, efficient animal welfare, and management of rescued animals.
Necessary Policies for Conservation Breeding
One of the first pillars of the vision is strengthening the conservation of endangered indigenous species through CZA policies and guidelines, which contribute to national biodiversity conservation efforts. Zoos play a major role in the preservation of species through conservation breeding programs. The government also plans to collaborate with international breeding programs like EEP and SSP. An annual review of all ongoing conservation breeding programs at all zoos is conducted as part of the vision; this includes creating a work plan with meeting charter, species experts for assessment and fixing tentative dates for breeding programs for species by 2021. The species assessment will be compiled and submitted to CZA for expert consultation will be required. The annual submission of the assessments will start in 2022. As part of the Vision Plan, specific educational programs, training, workshops on endangered and priority species will be conducted to raise awareness among the general public.
Infrastructure for Animals
In order to develop zoos that meet global standards, the plan shows the need to create infrastructure for animal shelters that can provide for the overall well-being of the animals based on the standards prescribed by CZA that are species-specific and will meet the biological requirements of animals. It is important to include aspects of landscape immersion that incorporate the natural and cultural elements of the native land of animals and abstract ecology, which represents the native habitat of animals. The plan points out that it is necessary to employ new approaches while designing enclosures. Enclosures must encompass outdoor areas, holding areas, temporary separation areas like kraals, etc., for animals by 2022. It must also include biological requirements like dens, hides, and resting ledges into the design of the enclosure and holding areas. To reduce disturbance for the animals, the vision plan introduces CCTV cameras for remote monitoring by 2029.
Management of Rescued Animals
Zoos should establish the necessary infrastructure to function as rescue centers for species rescued from the respective regions for quarantine, short-term or long-term medical care of rescued animals. The goal is to complete this by 2025. The zoos in the country should follow the statutes, policies, SOPs, standards for the rescue of wild animals and their welfare. Zoos should make necessary developments in enclosure designs, record keeping, information management, and uplift feeding and veterinary facilities based on the available protocols. Such changes shall be included as part of the Master Plan.
The rescued animals must be rehabilitated and released to the wild after proper care.
Before releasing animals in the wild, zoos should keep the animals in places like free-flight aviaries and soft-release enclosures to train and prepare them for the wild. For this, the zoo can add changes to their dietary needs that contain wild diets; this will enable them to adapt to life in the wild and will be able to survive without human aid.
Other significant pillars of the Vision Plan for Indian Zoos include accelerating science-based conservation action in zoos; this is mainly done by collaborating with research bodies and other zoological institutions. The research can strengthen the initiatives and welfare concerns of the management and ensure better care for animals by giving insight into animals’ behavioral and psychological needs.
Another pillar of the Vision Plan is establishing zoos as lifelong learning institutions for all ages connecting between society and nature; this includes classes, camps, school programs, webinars, workshops organized by the management. Other pillars include enhancing the visitor experience, using technology to increase overall efficiency and improve animal welfare, and building financially sustainable business models with goals of biodiversity conservation and animal welfare.