Assam State Zoo to introduce e-rickshaws soon for visitors
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Assam State Zoo to introduce e-rickshaws soon for visitors

Harshita Himatsingka | December 22, 2018 13:30 hrs

GUWAHATI: A few years ago, the Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden had introduced battery operated e-cars for its visitors. It was an initiative started by the zoo authorities so that more people, including older visitors, pregnant women and small children could see the entirety of the park as it features different terrains such as hills and uneven grounds. Part of the reason was also that since the zoo is spread over a vast area of 1.75 sq kms, it would be a novel way to see and enjoy the park. 

These facilities however soon came to a halt as the zoo could not keep up with the maintenance of these expensive, high-end battery cars. These cars were then outsourced to a third party two years ago which was supposed to maintain and run them. But sadly, they too failed in the task and there is currently a court case going on in this regard. Currently, the operation of these cars has completely stopped and the cars are lying to waste in a shed near the zoo’s entrance.
 
“What we are doing this time is that we are going to bring deluxe e-rickshaws. We are going to outsource it in such a way that the company who brings these vehicles will be responsible for everything starting from the maintenance of the automobiles to their operation. But we will be responsible for setting all the rules for their functioning in the zoo. We will decide the routes and fees to be charged,” said Tejas Mariswamy, Divisional Forest Officer of the Assam State Zoo.


Mariswamy explained that the zoo authorities have already issued a notice and the process to bring the e-rickshaws has been finalized and all they have to do now is wait for the approval. Once the approval goes through, the authorities are expecting to start the e-rickshaw service in a month’s time. They had put out tenders for the operation of these vehicles, and the highest bidder won.
“It is easier to maintain e-rickshaws than those battery-operated golf cars. The cost of the golf cars would come to Rs 4 lakhs but the cost for these rickshaws only comes to Rs 2 lakhs approximately. It is much more feasible and works so much better in Assam,” said Mariswamy.


Additional attractions making the Zoo a sought after destination

The zoo has started a bicycle rental system whereby visitors can pay and rent bicycles and cycle across the entire zoo premises. The cost is Rs 30 per hour. Visitors can also bring their own bicycles and that incurs a one-time charge of Rs 30.
 
“Many people like cycling and since they hardly find any place to cycle in Guwahati during the daytime, they come here. We are seeing a lot of kids and young people during the early morning hours, and based on the response we are getting, they are really liking it,” said Mariswamy. 
The zoo currently has a total of 20 bicycles available for rent and is trying to add more.
 
Another initiative that Mariswamy said that the zoo is undertaking is the introduction of a new trek route. The trek route is inside the zoo premises and is on a circular path. It covers an area of around 6 kms and takes almost two hours to complete. A staff member of the Assam State Zoo will guide the trekkers and bring them back safely.
 
“The Assam State Zoo has a huge area. The exhibit area where visitors come and see the animals covers only 20 percent of the total area. The remaining 80 percent of the zoo is surrounded by an area of virgin forests and hills. It is a beautiful unexplored area and that’s why we want to start the trek here. The trek too, is beautiful and there is a beautiful lake on top of the hill in the middle of the trek and another one towards the end of it,” said Mariswamy. 


Current and future aspirations 

Presently, the Assam State Zoo needs a lot of maintenance and it is working on it.
 
“One of the most important things that happened this year was the infrastructure advancement. We started the underground wiring project. The work has started and it is expected to be completed by February of next year,” said Tejas Mariswamy. 

He explained that the authorities had submitted a proposal under the Corporate Social Responsibility section to the Airports Authority of India and they have funded approximately Rs 2 crores for the project. Zoo authorities have also submitted a new layout plan. This plan includes details such as where the animals would be kept and the design of the animal enclosures. This project is under process and has yet to be approved. Once it is approved, the zoo will be able to upgrade from its present condition. The Assam State Zoo is also working to renovate other minor infrastructure, roads and visitor facilities based on the funds received from the state government.
 
“Our target by the end of the 2018 fiscal year is to finish off the basic infrastructure. For 2019, we are targeting to build at least 3 more animal enclosures which are more modern and safe and also, we want to acquire a new collection of animals,” said Mariswamy.

He also mentioned that a few years ago, the zoo did not have a salt lake facility, but now it is providing salt lakes, sufficient micro-nutrients and major enrichments. Many improvements have also been made in food and behavioral enrichments. 

When speaking about funds, Mariswamy said, “In terms of funds, we are not facing any problem for animal feed. We are okay for infrastructure, but we do not have sufficient funds for maintenance. That is one key area where we have to improve.” 

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