Pune Municipal Corporation established Peshwe Park Zoo at the foothills of Parwati in 1953 where the Peshwas had their private Menagerie. The zoo was established on a limited land of around 7 acres where the animals used to be housed and displayed to the visitors in concrete cages behind the iron bars. It was a typical traditional zoo of that time wherein only the objective was a recreation for visitors.
The formation of Central Zoo Authority in 1992 totally changed the scenario of the Indian zoos. They were transformed into scientific wildlife conservation centre. With a view of developing a zoo which will fulfil the objectives of naturalistic animal housing, conservation breeding, wildlife conservation education and research, a new site with a land area of 130 acres at Katraj was selected. The development work initiated in 1996. The new zoo inaugurated on 14th March 1999 and renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and Wildlife Research centre. Initially, the infrastructure development in the form of naturalistic enclosures for the ungulates, primates, sloth bear, Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant etc. was established. The old reptile park established in 1986 was also merged with the zoo.
At present, the zoo is a home to around 66 species of wildlife fauna including mammals, birds and reptiles which represents the Western Ghat and Deccan plateau. The animals are being displayed in a spacious naturalistic enclosure in a thematic manner. Enclosure exhibits are developed simulating the animals naturalistic habitat where environment enrichment is focussed on considering animals behavioural need. Animal upkeep and health care have been taken care of establishing veterinary hospital equipped with advanced diagnostic tools and treatment facilities. The Preventive disease management protocol is being strictly followed to keep animals away from health ailments.
Today this zoo is being recognised as one of the model zoos in the country and visited by around eighteen lacks visitors annually. The basic amenities like resting sheds, toilets, drinking water fountains, information signages, wheelchairs for the disables persons are made available for the visitor’s ease. The battery operated car facility is available to ferry the visitors around the premises. To promote the wildlife conservation education towards the visitors and students at large different educational activities are also conducted on a regular basis where audiences are sensitised on various aspects of wildlife.
The zoo aims at its future expansion and the master plan for the next twenty years development is worked out wherein it is planned to develop new enclosures, upgrade visitors amenities, improve the existing infrastructure and procure new animals. In the existing animal collection the new species like Asiatic lion, jungle cat, leopard cat, rusty spotted cat, giant squirrel, mouse deer, fox, wild dog, hyena, lion-tailed macaque etc. will be incorporated and exhibits for the species will be established. The existing reptile section will be shifted to a new location where the animal exhibits will be made more attractive with the availability of modern glass barriers in the facility. The walkthrough aquatic bird aviary will be another attraction to come up as per the development plan. To propagate the wildlife conservation education in a scientific manner a nature interpretation centre is being developed and the facility will be with interactive displays and audiovisual aids. The ex situ breeding of the endangered wildlife species would be the another planned activity of future plan. The Malabar giant squirrel will be the species taken up for the planned ex situ conservation breeding. The visitor circulation has been planned to improve by developing service road for the animal facilities and constructing a bridge over the water body to minimise visitor’s walk.
To make a development plan comprehensive Zoo management is keen to add charismatic animal species like Zebra, Giraffe and the antelope species of African Savanna in the existing collection. The amendment proposal is likely to get the nod from the sanctioning authorities.
Pune Municipal Corporation is committed to making Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park a world-class zoo thereby focussing on the speedy execution of development plan, updating the animal facilities, infusing the newer technologies in animal health care and conservation breeding and concentrating the research pertaining to different aspects of wildlife.