It is one of the enclosures of the approved master lay-out plan of Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Chennai.
Butterfly parks in zoological parks serve as window through which visitors watch nature and get inspired to become conservationists and future custodians of nature. The butterflies are important pollinators of several wild and domesticated plants and depletion of their population could adversely affect the regeneration of the plants. Considering the role of butterflies in maintaining nature’s ecological balance, a butterfly park has been established in Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Chennai with assistance from Tourism and Culture Department, Government of Tamil Nadu and Ministry of Tourism, Government of India at the cost of Rs.400 lakhs.
Butterfly park with nectar and host plant gardens and indoor conservatory has been established over an area of well fenced 2.7 hectares. An indoor conservatory in a shape of caterpillar to the size of 60 m length, 26 m width and height of 6 m has been constructed with roof of white poly carbonate sheet to allow natural sun light passed on to the ground. A predator insect proof stainless steel mesh has been provided all around the structure. A double door system has been provided to prevent the escape of the butterflies. Nectar and host plant gardens have been provided outside the indoor conservatory to supply breeding materials to the indoor conservatory. The following are the salient features of the butterfly park at Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Chennai:
Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur attracts annually 2.4 million visitors. There are circular road and loop roads inside the zoo for the internal movement of visitors. In order to facilitate and to guide visitors to visit the butterfly park, a prominent welcome arch with signage has been erected on circular road. The road from circular road up to the butterfly park has been improved with anti-skid tiles, lighting and tree lining. Xerophyte plants have been planted around the trees on the road leading to the butterfly park. Suitable toe walls have been constructed on road sides to conserve water while simultaneously acting as sitting benches to the visitors.
An indoor conservatory in a shape of caterpillar to the size of 60 m length, 26 m width and height of 6 m has been constructed with roof of white poly carbonate sheet to allow natural sun light passed on to the ground. A predator insect proof stainless steel mesh has been provided all around the structure. A double door system has been provided to prevent the escape of the butterflies. Shallow water channels and evaporation pond created inside will keep the humidity at desired levels. Eight islands have been created with red earth and suitable nectar and host plants have been planted with irrigation systems. To accommodate feeding and breeding requirements, climbers in pots and trays have also been provided to utilize the available space in an efficient manner. A photo gallery, larval rearing lab and pupa rearing lab have also been established inside the indoor conservatory. The rearing facilities for eggs, larvae, pupae and adults have been provided in the two air conditioned laboratories inside indoor butterfly conservatory.
Tropical butterflies require day temperatures of 23 – 25 degree C and 80-85 % relative humidity. A slight and intermittent air current stimulates flight in many butterflies thus increases the frequency of feeding, locating of mate and courtship behaviour. Hence artificial meandering water channels side by side with walk paths have been provided to ensure continuous flow of shallow water throughout the butterfly park including inside indoor conservatory. The shallow channels carrying a film of water will pour into a shallow evaporating pond inside the indoor butterfly conservatory which will raise the humidity levels on evaporation inside the house. The water is collected back into a tank and recirculated back to the artificial channels. A naturally available water course inside the park has been developed by properly embanking the edges to facilitate smooth flow of water, supporting butterfly friendly grasses like Typha angustata, Acanthus ilicifoleus, Cynodon dactylon, Oryza sativa etc planted inside the partitioned channel. The humidity levels inside the water course help in promoting the growth of butterflies.
Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis during their life cycle i.e. egg, larva, pupa and adult. Butterflies on the head have antennae, compound eyes and the proboscis (haustellum). Butterflies with their compound eye structure can virtually see in all directions. While human beings can perceive colours ranging from red to indigo, butterflies can see further into violet and ultra violet range of the light spectrum. Hence there is a need for developing nectar gardens with wide diversity of inflorescence. Adult butterflies can feed only juicy material such as nectar, juice from fruits, sap exuding from the trees etc. with the help of proboscis situated on the ventral side of the head. The two nectar gardens and three host plant gardens have been planted with about 200 species consisting of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, grasses, palms and reeds.
The nectar and host plants which are climbers in nature have been planted over the iron scaffoldings above the walk paths and channels to utilize the vertical space as well. Species like Petrea volublis, Thunbergia grandiflora, Bignonia venusta, Cleodendrum thompsoniae etc. have been planted. The climber species have also been trained around fencing.
Management of nectar and host plant gardens is a continuous activity. There are annuals and perennials among them. In order to ensure continuity of the plants especially the nectar ones, a permanent nursery with facilities of mist tent, attenuation chambers and other facilities has been created. Annuals are produced continuously for uninterrupted supply.
All the nectar and host plant gardens, both inside and outside have been provided with sprinkler and drip irrigation systems. The sprinkler systems along with drip systems have been installed to water the plants uninterruptedly during swarming and other times. Sprinklers would wet the wings of butterflies during the swarming time, hence sprinkler system will not be used and drip system will be utilized during the swarming time. Thermo-hygro meters have been placed at different locations inside the house to monitor the temperature and humidity levels.
Visitors are allowed from one side and to exit from other side. Both entry and exits are connected to a well laid cement road with facilities of tree lining and seating arrangements. Meandering walk paths, side by side with shallow water channels and three rest sheds would take care of visitors’ comforts. Stainless steel barricades have been provided to prevent visitors from entering the nectar and host plant gardens. Visitors are guided with suitable directional signages throughput the butterfly park.
Suitable signage boards have been erected along the walk paths depicting the details of life history, ecological role, behaviour, butterfly gardening, butterfly watching, photographing butterflies etc. Photo gallery and interpretation centre containing LED images of butterflies of Tamil Nadu and display of butterfly related videos and photographs through professional digital display equipment have been arranged in the indoor butterfly conservatory. Brass inscribed boards, brass lettering for different facilities and labelling of nectar and host plant species have also been provided.
Otteri Lake, lying in the foothills of Vandalur hills located inside the Arignar Anna Zoological park witnesses thousands of aquatic and migratory birds every year. After the Vardah cyclone in 2016, followed by consecutive summers of severe drought, the entire lake dried up completely. Zoo management has taken several action plans for lake renovation and executed it successfully.
After restoration, the lake’s storage capacity has increased subsequently. Also, bunds and weirs have been raised to prevent the lake from drying out. Several percolation ponds and rainwater storage units have also been dug out across the zoo to maintain the groundwater table. These ponds in turn had helped to resolve the water crisis for zoo animals. Trees like Barringtonia (freshwater mangrove), Arjuna, Jamun, Ficus, bamboo.etc are planted in the mounds which aquatic birds primarily choose for nesting. The latest bird census conducted in February 2020 records 21 species of aquatic birds are sighted in the lake.
The Veterinary Team takes rounds everyday in the morning to all enclosures in the zoo, to assess the health of zoo animals, birds, reptiles and related issues. Depending on the severity of the sickness, the animals will be either isolated and shifted to in-patient ward or kept in the animal house for further care, monitoring and treatment. The major ailments among zoo animals were due to senility, infighting, and digestive tract ailments. The fully equipped zoo hospital with lab facilities is available at AAZP. Spacious quarantine unit to accommodate newly acquired animals and sick animals suspected for contagious diseases is also available.
Veterinary Doctors formulate the diet chart of zoo animals depending on the physiological and climatic needs. Periodical feed enrichments, feed supplements and feed additives were prescribed to augment dietary deficiency, if any. Veterinary Doctors inspect the feed for the Requisite quality and quantity, at the point of receipt and monitor the operation of division of feeds fit for animal consumption, enclosure wise.
Periodical feed sample evaluation is done by Pharmaco vigilance laboratory for feed analysis and safety, Madhavaram.
Internees of UG course were trained in AAZP, for a week in Zoo animal Restraint, Handling and veterinary care. Around 260 students of Madras Veterinary college, Veterinary college and Reasearch Institutes of Namakkal, Orathanadu and Thirunelveli were trained in 2017-18.
1. Prophylactic deworming of all mammals, birds and reptiles were done every 3 month (April, July, October, January).
2. Lions, Royal bengal Tigers, White Tigers , Leopards, and small felids were vaccinated against feline panleucopenia, feline calcivirus, and feline rhinotracheitis virus and rabies virus on annual basis.
3. Triquin prophylaxis is administered to all Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Wolf, Jackal,Hyaena and Wildogs on quarterly basis.
4. Wolf, Striped Hyena, and Jackal were vaccinated with Canine DHLPPi and rabies virus on annual basis.
5. The bovines which includes Gaurs and Nilgai were vaccinated against FMD, Black Quarter and Haemorrhagic Septicaemia.
6. Elephants were vaccinated against Hemorrhagic septicaemia, Tetanus Toxoid and Anthrax.
7. Annual ring vaccination around the zoo boundary villages were done against, FMD,Black Quarters, Haemorrhagic Septicaemia and Anthrax by state Animal Husbandry Department before northeast monsoon.
8. Ectoparasiticidal (Deltamethrin, Cypermethrin) spraying and animal house disinfection with flame gun in all carnivore enclosures on monthly basis.
Bird Flu Surveillance and preventive measures were carried in the month of November, December, January as National wide alert was received from Animal husbandry Department, GOI. Anti viral disinfection of major species that are at risk of avian influenza were done enclosure wise, every week and surveillance report were sent to GOI.
The perishable items which are supplied daily are first washed and cleaned and then in the zoo kitchen they’re cut and dressed in presentable form for being fed to the animals. A well-equipped zoo kitchen with a cold storage and deep freezer is available in the zoo for storing food items. Wash basins, fly catcher, separate rooms for receiving perishable and non-perishable food items and fly proof doors for proper closing of beef cutting room have also been provided. Non-perishable food items of 190 kg, perishable foods of 300 kg, beef & fish of 750 kg, cattle feed of 430 kg and fodder of 2000 kg are being provided to zoo animals every day. A rat breeding centre created near the store house caters the needs of snakes.
The herbivores have to be fed with balanced and nutritious feed that include green fodder, tree leaves and concentrates. Each species of herbivore requires a balanced composition of grasses, legumes, tree fodder and concentrates. The zoo requires about 2000 kgs of green fodder for feeding the herbivores like elephant, hippo, gaur, zebra, wild ass, giraffe and varieties of deer.
In order to meet the fodder demand, the AAZP management has established two fodder banks in its premises. CO-4, CO-3, paragrass, cow pea, calapo and tree fodder are the fodder varieties that are being produced in these fodder banks. Due to scarcity of water and raising of commercial crops by the farmers, procuring fodder from outside sources becomes a challenge at times. Sometimes it’s also observed that the fodder procured is not fresh and succulent. Hence it was decided to raise fodder banks for ensuring continuous supply of fodder every day to the herbivores.
Considering that the surface irrigation requires more water, more labour and time consuming with unequal spread of water, the sprinkler system with good system design and proper irrigation scheduling was installed at the fodder banks. Earlier surface irrigation was practiced in the fodder banks in Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Chennai. After the installation of the sprinklers, the yield has increased considerably. Nutrient recycling is implemented by composting all the leaf litter and dung material collected inside the zoo. After composting for 3 to 4 months, the material is applied to the fodder. No inorganic fertilizers are used in the fodder banks.
The zoo has become self-sufficient in its fodder production and the zoo is no more depending on the mercy of the contractors for supplying the grasses and legumes. The fresh juicy and succulent grasses with aroma now reach the all 350 herbivores within two to three hours of the cutting. By promoting sprinkler irrigation system in place of surface irrigation, the zoo saves almost 70% of the water for other purposes.
All along the sides of the network of the roads and in the rest areas, lawns have been developed to increase the aesthetic beauty of the zoo. Trees have been planted in all the available gaps to give a continuous canopy and provide shelter from the summer heat to the visitor and also enrich the general environment for the animals. A good quantity of fruits is made available from the zoo orchard where mango, guava, and coconut trees have been raised. The enclosures of Elephant and Sambar are enriched by planting seedlings of bamboos, neem, aal, arasu etc. In the fodder bank more leaf giving banana trees have been planted to feed the herbivores especially for the elephant.