Amid challenges, she makes a mark
After reopening the zoo last November, the gates again remained closed for the public from May IGZP curator aims to redefine IGZP, a destination for people to look forward to beyond a picnic spot
A year ago, when Nandani Salaria took the reins of Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) as a curator, the zoo park was not in a great shape.
Thanks to the pandemic-induced lockdown, revenues came to a standstill and expenses continued to mount as the gates of the zoo remained shut for almost eight months.
Though respite came in the form of government grants, they were hardly adequate to meet the expenditure incurred. "Revenue generation is a major task in the current pandemic times. Funding support from the state government for diet charges of the zoo animals, repair works and renovation of animal enclosures is sought. Hopefully, we will be getting it in the coming months," explains the zoo curator, who took charge as IGZP curator in June, 2020.
After reopening the zoo last November, the gates again remained closed for the public from May amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the present situation did not stop the management from raising funds through different means such as awareness activities, sale of souvenirs, self-sustaining initiatives such as setting up of a fodder plot for generating organic fodder, fruits and vegetables for feeding the zoo animals along with CSR funding from corporate firms. Despite the financial crunch, the focus is on rolling out new initiatives. They include, conservation education and outreach activities like butterfly walk, bird walk series, webinars and virtual summer camp, establishment of a souvenir and outreach centre. "There's an improved focus on animal and bird biology which helped many species to breed, especially Eclectus Parakeet and Macaws which had not bred for several years," elaborates Nandani Salaria.
A number of animal exchange programmes with Indian as well as foreign zoos are in the pipeline. Once it materialises, swamp deer, thamin deer will dot the zoo. Landscaping of the zoo, aesthetic improvement to the existing buildings, visitor amenities like public toilets, pink toilets for women which will contain a sanitary napkin vending machine, sheds, and seating benches will be taken up by the zoo authorities. Apparently, the stress is on animal adoption. "It is not only to make do for the upkeep of the animals through adoption but also to develop a connect between the animal and the adopter which will remain for a lifetime," explains the zoo curator, a gold medallist in Veterinary Sciences in Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu.
Being an IFS officer Nandani Salaria says that one needs to be strong physically. "Women are very few in certain sectors. But yes, there is a lot of scope for earning a good reputation in the less trodden path," she clarifies.
When Nandani Salaria posted as a DFO in Kakinada, not many appeared to be pleased to see a woman officer. "It was my first posting and a challenging place. Being a woman officer, initially, people thought I would not be able to survive there for long. However, I did quite well during my stint as a DFO that lasted for three years and two months," the curator recalls.
Though challenges have been part of her work life, Nandani Salaria exudes confidence that she wants to redefine IGZP, a destination for people to look forward to beyond a picnic spot.