Eight Humboldt penguins, imported from South Korea for Mumbai’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Zoo, are in the middle of a political row between Congress, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently got eight Humboldt penguins from a zoo in South Korea at a cost of Rs 2.5 crores. These penguins will be on display at Mumbai’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Zoo (Byculla Zoo) from November. BMC is now working on war footing to set up facility, which could suit the natural requirement for the penguins to live. At present the Penguins- three males, three females and two babies- are in quarantine and are undergoing acclimatisation.
Two leaders from Congress and MNS, however, have voiced strong reservation on the decision to bring penguins to Mumbai and have called it ‘waste of public money’ to fulfill wishes of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aditya, who had made the suggestion that Mumbai zoo should house penguins.
Incidentally, Aditya and his younger brother Tejas were allowed to visit the quarantine facility at the zoo on Friday.
Congress legislator Nitesh Rane, son of senior former chief minister Narayan Rane, is of the opinion that Mumbai’s climate is not suitable for penguins.
“Will they survive in this humid climate,” asked Rane expressing concern.
“How can the Mumbai weather suit the penguins ? Who will be held responsible if the penguins die ? In South America the Humboldt Penguin is found only along Pacific coast... how can they survive in Mumbai,” tweeted Nitesh.
Sandeep Deshpande, group leader of the MNS in the BMC, too felt that penguins were brought to Mumbai only because Aditya Thackeray had expressed such a desire a few years ago.
He pointed out that BMC, governed by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, bowed to a demand made by Shiv Sena’s young prince, Aditya.
“They did not bring a Kangaroo because Aditya wanted penguins. Now these penguins will be housed in a 250 square meter space when minimum space required by Penguins at display at zoos across the world is 750 square meters. And how does BMC plan to ensure that Mumbai’s humidity and heat does not affect these species. They will be miserable here in the summer and may not live long enough as per their normal life cycle,” he feared.
According to Deshpande the proposal to create a Penguin Exhibition Centre at the Mumbai zoo had originated in 2008. He felt that a study should first have been done to see how long can the penguins can survive in a city like Mumbai.
“Even if we create conditions similar to their natural habitat, that should have been done only after a study. Also BMC has tied up with an Australian consultancy for taking care of the penguins and their shelter. We will be paying them in dollars. The total cost of this entire affair is around Rs 24 crores. I am not opposed to penguins, but wouldn't it be better that this amount was spent on Indian animals which are better suited for our conditions,” said Deshpande.