14 June : The Assam State Zoo-cum Botanical Garden in Guwahati is the only zoo in the country where a natural forest exists.The forest, which occupies 100 hectares out of the zoo’s total area of 175 hectares, has wild animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects, the zoo’s director, Narayan Mahanta, said.
Set up in 1957, the ASZBG is now one of the premier zoos of the country and also the largest in the Northeast.The zoo has to its credit a series of success stories in breeding rare and endangered animals with special emphasis on endemic species.
The zoo is also one of the most favoured tourist destinations in the region, playing host to over five lakh visitors annually and serving as a green lung to the city.Mahanta said, "Perhaps no other zoo can boast of such an extraordinary diversity both inside and outside the enclosures. Just the right combination for making the visitors aware of the role of zoos as ex-situ conservation centres, complimentary to in-situ conservation."
Noted wildlife expert and assistant conservator of forests Manoj Nair says "there is a contrast between the apparent lifelessness of the denuded hillocks outside and the throbbing pulse of life that prospers inside the walled campus and it only proves that co-existence of man and nature in urban landscapes is possible".
The ASZBG also houses a museum which will soon be upgraded into a full-fledged interpretation centre. It will house priceless trophies, unique specimens, mounted skins and minor forest produce gathered from all over the NE region to give a glimpse of the biological richness of the biodiversity hotspot.