The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, more commonly known as the Darjeeling Zoo, at an altitude of about 7000 feet is the largest high altitude zoo in India. This is also where you find many Himalayan animals; a few among them, endangered. It was February 10, 2018 and we reached the Darjeeling zoo at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Our driver parked the car on the main street and told us that we need to walk up to the zoo. We started the short climb and on the way had jhal moori to subside our hunger as we had no plans to have proper lunch in our time constraint schedule. There were a few stalls selling souvenirs and other eatables on the right and on the left were the zoo premises.
The Darjeeling Zoo shares its boundary with the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute), set up by Mr. Tenzing Norgay himself and the tickets include the price to visit the HMI as well. A point you should note is that the Darjeeling zoo as well as the HMI remains closed on Thursdays.
Bear at the Darjeeling Zoo
As we entered the gates of the Darjeeling Zoo, what we saw was incredible. A lot of people were standing and watching something interesting. We approached and saw a huge Himalayan black bear and it was in the open, unlike in other places. It was completely black in color and sported a v-shaped white mark around its inner neck. There was a deep ditch separating the place where they kept the bear and the platform where people stood. There was a trail beyond the ditch for the bear to walk up to us. It walked all the way up to where we stood, raised its neck so as to entertain us and then walked back. It continued the same act incessantly.
After waiting for about 15 odd minutes, we proceeded towards the pheasants section. On the way, we found a few school children near the red panda section, probably on a project. I could see the red panda in between branches of a tree. Next were monkeys, pheasants and lesser carnivores in small enclosures which felt very depressing and we left for the other side of the zoo.
Deer at the Darjeeling Zoo
Several types of deer and sheep were kept on the left of the lane which went up to the cages of the tiger and the snow leopard. There were many animals ranging from Goral, Himalayan Tahr, Markhor, Sambar Deer, Blue Sheep, Yak and Barking Deer. The enclosures, though not very big, were open and there were sheds where they could hide themselves during the rain. We saw a few carnivores like black panther and snow leopard, as well as the tiger, which seemed to be fast asleep. Both Sourav and I were busy photographing the animals and in no time found that it was about 4 o’ clock. We decided not to explore further as we had to visit the rock gardens before it got darker. So, we kept the Bengal Natural History Museum and the HMI for our next visit to the Darjeeling Zoo.