On a hot day in May we bought tickets priced 4 rupees at Victoria Station, and entered the suburban train, a sweaty pleasure despite the lack of window glass and despite the open doors. The Mumbai city zoo at Victoria Gardens (Jijamata Udyan) is within walking distance from the Byculla railway station. Officially named Veerbaj Jeejamata Udyan zoo, also known as Byculla zoo in Victoria Gardens, currently named Jijamata Udyaan and alternatively known as Rani Baugh or Ranee Baug.
Opened in 1892, the zoo seems to look much like it did in colonial times. The barred and stone cages are few and far between and sometimes insecure. The well-maintained garden contains some of the oldest trees in the city and about 20 animal enclosures. Many animals must have died in the past years, be removed or retired from the zoo. There is a modern-day aviary containing aquatic birds like painted storks and pelicans. This zoo having more flowerbeds and bulks of trees than animal enclosures and more enclosures than animals is a perfect place to hang out on a hot day.
Victoria Gardens history starts in 1862 and during the last decade of the nineteenth century, a menagerie was established in the corner of this botanical garden. In 1889 the integrated zoological and botanical Victoria Gardens were to be open to the public for free. Private persons like the Maharaja of Bhavnagar and corporations like the Tramway Bombay Company have funded the enclosures of bears and carnivores.
Criticism and taxidermy
After inspection (2006) the zoo has been the target of fierce criticism on overcrowding and neglect. It is said that a few years later zoo Mumbai is transforming into a taxidermy museum, by letting animals die and then stuff them for display.
A high tree looks like a great opportunity for a lazy lion to escape.We can almost count the animals. One neurotic grey langur (a holy monkey) and four small monkeys, two elephants, two crocodiles, two 'dangerous' hippopotamuses, one sleeping hyena, one sleeping panther, snakes, deer (sambar) and the zoo's pride and joy: two peacocks in an oversized cage. The bear exhibit seems vacant and we could not find the rhinoceros. We have noticed several water tanks meant for visitors who do not drink bottled water, and maybe for plants and animals too. No food counters or restaurant.
Zoo maps Mumbai
- 400 birds and 208 other animals in 2007
- 19,5 ha
- 19th-century zoo