Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM; Weekly holiday: Tuesday.
Have you guys seen a white peacock before? This is the first time for me! In the blazing April heat of Chennai, I decided to go to the Vandalur Zoo (Arignar Anna Zoological Park) in Vandalur, Chennai. I was there around 8:30 AM (when the zoo opens) but I spent some time having breakfast at the Sangeetha restaurant opposite to it. Ah, what lovely food! The Vandalur zoo is on the GST road and is situated about 15 KM further off from the airport. I took the Chennai bypass on the Ponamalee road, and was able to reach this place faster.
This zoo/park is very big (It’s the biggest in India, it seems) and hence if people want to explore this place fully, they can take the electric vehicle (which stops at each enclosure)/a bicycle on rent. I was in a good mood to walk, so I just walked the entire stretch. It is possible, but I was too tired to go to the aquarium and a few other exhibits displayed at the end. It seems, lion safari and elephant safari are available, but I didn’t take them (mainly due to the crowd). On a holiday, you can expect this zoo to be heavily crowded.
There are many animals kept in this zoo, like the bear shown above but almost none of them are kept in small closed cages (except a few of them like jackal and leopard). This is a good and it seems, the zoo is trying to create a habitat closer to the natural habitat for animals and birds. The zoo is also involved in a lot of conservation activities by admitting and breeding rare species in a protected environment. There is one full fledged veterinary hospital inside the zoo premises.
Free ranging deer is ok, I have seen such free ranging deer already in Guindy National park. But free ranging snakes? OMG! It seems, one nine feet python in this zoo escaped from its enclosure last year. It should have been caught by now, but if not maybe we can catch it and hand it over to the authorities, if we spot it around this area At the end of this article, I will show you a lion and a tiger
There are many birds kept inside a rather large enclosure (surrounded by nets) and some of them are really big. It seems, the neighboring Otteri lake is a favorite haunt of the migratory birds for nesting, but I am not sure if the general public is allowed into that area. Even though the zoo is large, it has a thick cover of trees which provides a good amount of shade, almost throughout the park. Otherwise, we might have to visit the veterinary hospital ourselves, for sun-stroke! We are also one form of animals, right?
I was not impressed with the reptiles/crocodile section. There are so many crocodiles in small enclosures. The enclosures for snakes/night species are even smaller and they are displayed like objects inside a showcase with a glass enclosure in front of openings in walls. The zoo authorities should come up with some innovative ideas to recreate their natural surroundings and give them larger space to roam around. I am in fact, waiting for the day when all zoo’s have large open spaces for animals/birds to freely roam around and we can go around in caged vehicles. I think the Bannerghatta national park near Bangalore is focused more on safari’s (but there is a zoo there, as well).
As promised, here is a lion and tiger!! It is there – can you see them? Actually, the display of these animals are prohibited and hence they are kept in protected reserve forest areas. So, we can only see them over a distance. I think it’s a good move because we can anyway see these animals in Discovery/NGC/Animal Planet channels and Youtube videos. What’s the point of catching them and putting them inside small cages?
But I’ll still show you the video of white tigers, which I was able to capture from a relatively closer range. Yes, there are white tigers! I am seeing them for the first time. See them, along with a few other animals/birds from the below embedded YouTube movie, made by me.