The Nandankanan Zoological Park is located in Bhubaneswar in Orissa, a beautiful state in the east of India. Its name is translated to “The Garden of Heavens”, providing some indication of its natural splendour and awe-inspiring landscapes. Nandankanan is one of the best zoos in all of Orissa and has achieved the status of being both a sanctuary and India’s first member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It was established as a zoo in 1960 and was then declared as a public zoo and sanctuary in 1979. It was repaired and upgraded in 2000 after a super-cyclone hit Orissa and damaged many of its buildings and natural areas. Part of the zoological park includes botanical gardens, making for an even more diverse offering for guests and tourists to enjoy. Almost two million people visit this park every year.

The Nandankanan Zoological Park was started in response to the realisation of the value of the many different animal species that had made their habitat in the forests and grassy plains of Orissa. Some animals were bought, captured or hired for the Agricultural Fair exhibition in Delhi (1960). At the time, these animals included porcupines, Black Buck, Mouse Deer, Peacock, Flying Squirrel, Spotted Deer, Racket-tailed Drongo, Leopard Cat and Mongoose. Despite arguments regarding the expenses implied by establishing a zoo in Orissa and transporting all of the animals there from Delhi, the animals were brought to the area and homed in temporary structures. Jain volunteers assisted with the feeding of the animals, while visitors from all around came within days to see these wild residents. These were the humble beginnings of the “Garden of Heavens”. The botanical garden was established three years later, in 1963.

Today, the Nandankanan Zoological Park is famous for its population of stunning White Tigers. In fact, this park claims to have been the originator of the White Tiger (which is, therefore, also known as the Orissa Strain of tigers) and has
Image of a White Tiger
White Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
distributed cubs of this species to other zoos and reserves around the world. It has an official breeding centre for White Tigers and is renowned for having the largest population of them in the subcontinent. Other wildlife includes several endangered species, one of which is the magnificent Asiatic Lion. Nature enthusiasts will delight in the Mouse Deer, Indian Pangolin, Nilgiri Langur, Sangal Lion-tailed Macaque, abundance of fresh-water fish in the 34 aquariums, crocodiles, lizards, turtles, as well as many bird- and snake species. There are densely forested areas within the zoo, which provide the ideal habitat for these animals to live, eat and breed within a natural environment. Special breeding programmes have been implemented for Black Panthers and Gharial Crocodiles in addition to the White Tigers.

To conserve these valuable species, zoos, reserves and parks all over India have implemented various initiatives. These have mainly been aimed at educating the public, stopping poaching, limiting the negative influence that humans have on animals and preserving the animals within protected areas. At Nandankanan Zoo, those interested in assisting these animals can adopt one. The adoptive ‘parent’ pays an annual fee and then receives a certificate, updates and mentions on public displays at the zoo. This encourages the notion of public participation in conservation initiatives and has been emulated by several other reserves around the world.

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