1.1 The growing awareness for nature & wildlife conservation has made zoos a popular institution. Estimates indicate that 10% of the world’s population visit zoos every year. There are about 350 animal collections in India, which are visited by more than 50 million people annually.
1.2 While there is a history of scientific interest, conservation and welfare of captive wild animals in the country, many zoos have evolved from menageries and private collections, and most zoos until the last two decades were set up mainly for entertainment and recreation. As wildlife resources were abundant in the past, scientific knowledge about the behavioral and biological requirements of animals did not receive adequate attention, with the result that scientific management of wild animals in captivity has evolved slowly
1.3 The need for making conservation as one of the main objectives of management of zoos was realized by Government of India soon after independence and the Indian Board of Wildlife made important recommendations in this regard. The Government set up an Expert Committee on Management of Zoos in November,1972 and its recommendations were accepted in June,1973. The recommendations are relevant even now for improving the management of Zoos. The National Wildlife Action Plan of 1983 again emphasized the role of ex-situ conservation in national conservation efforts. However, because of varied ownership patterns and divergent nature of animal collections, not much was achieved.
1.4 Today when wildlife habitats are under severe pressure and a large number of species of wild fauna have become endangered, the zoos have not only to sustain their own populations but also augment the depleting populations of endangered species in the wild. This new role has been acknowledged by the global conservation community and Article 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
1.5 As zoos are visited by a large number of visitors, zoos are a potent tool for educating people about the close linkage between protection of natural areas and maintaining the life supporting processes of nature. Well-planned and appropriately designed zoos can sensitize visitors to the dangers of a hostile or indifferent attitude towards nature.
1.6 In India, many well designed zoos were set up in some of the States but for the most part, zoos have not been able to meet the challenges imposed by the changing scenario and still continue with the legacy of past i.e. displaying animals under conditions which are neither congenial to the animals nor educative and rewarding to the visitors.
1.7 The amendment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, in 1991, provided for the enforcement of mandatory standards and norms for management of zoos through the Central Zoo Authority. However, it is realized that the objectives of the Act can be achieved only through co-operation and participation of various government agencies, non-governmental organisations and people at large
1.8 The National Zoo Policy aims at giving proper direction and thrust to the management of zoos by mustering co-operation and participation of all concerned.
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