In the letter sent by Rupani, he believes that apes would generate additional attraction for thousands of tourists expected to visit the Jungle Safari
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has asked for three chimpanzees seized by Kolkata Airport’s Customs Department to be released for the Sardar Patel Zoological Park (SPZP) being developed near the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat. The 350-acre park was scheduled to be inaugurated on October 31.
Rupani has requested Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Environment and Forests, to intervene in getting the chimpanzees back. This comes days after the deaths of such exotic animals in transit to the park. The chimpanzees are speculated to have been brought illegally from abroad.
For the past two months, the apes have been living at Kolkata’s Alipore Zoo. The zoo authorities are unaware of Gujarat CM’s request and said that the chimpanzees are doing very well.
In the letter sent by Rupani, he believes that apes would generate additional attraction for thousands of tourists expected to visit the Jungle Safari. Central Zoo Authority Member Secretary SP Yadav confirmed receiving the letter. He added that the minister (Javedkar) would respond on behalf of CZA.
Also in the loop with the plan is Rajiv Gupta, Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited.
The apes first landed in Customs, then were kept in custody by Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe a money-laundering scheme. Alleged wildlife smuggler Supradip Guha is being looked at for the use of fake papers, including a birth certificate for one of the chimpanzees showing the animals of being Indian in origin. ED has seized several marmosets and chimpanzees under the Prevention Of Money Laundering Act. A marmoset is estimated to be of Rs 1.5 lakh and chimpanzees are estimated to be worth nearly Rs 25 lakh each in the market.
Gujarat authorities have built the SPZP in a record time of six months ever since it was envisaged by the Prime Minister of India during his visit to Kevadia last year. It was developed under the barren ground which served earlier as a dumping site for debris to build the Statue of Unity. Fully grown trees were transplanted to provide greenery.
Rupani also mentions that PM Modi had visited the site earlier. He could not, however, inaugurate the zoo. Its opening was scheduled to coincide with the one year anniversary of the statue.
The animals who died during transit were being transported from South Africa. Sources told IE that around 8-10 of the animals died, while Gupta assured there were two-four deaths. He said that a few deaths are expected during transit from one country to another.
According to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, imported animals have to be quarantined for 30 days at the very least. Till last week, final touches were being given to the zoo, several of them remained under quarantine, including a giraffe, zebras and impalas. The zoo also has wallabies, emus, Patagonian mara, ostrich, iguana, marmoset, several species of monkeys, a lion, a Royal Bengal Tiger, leopards, antelopes, Indian wild ass, single-horned rhino and Indian bison. The park’s one-acre aviary is one of the largest in the country.
Meanwhile, the chimpanzees are a hit at the Kolkata zoo. A senior ED official said that they attract huge crowds.