The managements of zoos in Karnataka, including the century-old Mysuru zoo and the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) in Bengaluru, are awaiting the State governments nod for reopening to visitors nearly two months.
Mysuru zoo was shut since March 15 as a measure to combat COVID-19. Other zoos in the State were also closed down on the governments directive which was followed by the national lockdown.
The governing council of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) had met in Bengaluru recently and given its consent to the proposal for reopening the zoos amidst austere compliance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and safety guidelines for the visitors, staff and the animals.
Mysuru zoo was asked to prepare comprehensive SOPs including social distancing among visitors, wearing of masks and so on to be followed post-COVID-19 lockdown and the same was shared with other zoos. SOPs had been separately prepared for the safety of visitors, staff, and animals based on the advice of health authorities and the vets. So far, no tourist destination had been permitted to open in the State.
Following relaxation of curbs, the ZAK hopes to make a new start reopening the zoos although it was not certain of footfall in the current situation. The zoos survival was entirely based on the visitors entry fee. For example, the maintenance cost of the Mysuru zoo comes up to 2 crore a month which covers animal feeding, staff salaries and other operating costs.
The governing council, headed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Forests, has resolved to seek the governments nod and sought to know any additional SOPs to be incorporated for the reopening.
We are awaiting government directives on our proposals. The Forest Department has consented. The Health Department and the disaster management authority may be consulted before a decision was taken. The decision rests with the government and ZAK is prepared for reopening by enforcing strict safety norms, said B.P. Ravi, Member Secretary, ZAK, Mysuru.
Its perhaps for the first time in its history that the famous tourist spot had remained closed for so long. Donation to the tune of 2.32 crore was raised and was handed over to the zoo management.