HIMALAYAN ZOOLOGICAL PARK
By Aishwarya Bhatt
I was just reading an article about the Indian muntjac (aka barking deer) and immediately remembered that moment when I spotted this one gracefully going about in its green enclosure at the Himalayan zoological park in Gangtok. It looked right at me as if asking ‘what are you looking at?’ I spent the next ten minutes just watching it run around. Grace! Although famous for the work it is doing for the conservation of Red pandas, seeing the other inhabitants here is equally mesmerising.
To experience the flora and fauna of the Himalayas is known to be a surreal and unique affair. With many endangered species and flora surviving brunt of climate change, witnessing the ecology of this region is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Himalayan Zoological Park hosts a variety of the Himalayan species in its humble abode. Located in Bulbuley, a 28-minute scenic drive from the Elgin Nor-Khill will bring one to the gates of the first Zoological Park of Sikkim.
Established in 1991, the park’s birth was founded with the intention of protecting the wildlife of the region while rehabilitating it in its natural surroundings. Hunting and poaching have forced many of these species to be endangered.
The Park accomplishes the perception of a modern zoo, where the animals are kept in replicated natural conditions. The best time to visit the area is during mid- February to May and mid-September to December. The Park is maintained by the Forests, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim.
One can find all kinds of species at the park, from the Red Pandas of the eastern Himalayas to the elusive and previously endangered predator of the Himalayas – the Snow Leopard Cat. Other endemic herbivores include the Himalayan goral. The Monal Pheasant is a sight to sore eyes in all its magnificence.
The beautiful state of Sikkim with it’s warm, affectionate, and kind-hearted people couldn’t have found a more ideal mascot than the red panda! The shifu-like demeanor and cuteness overload indeed raises the spirit of any disheartened.
The park spans across a vast 205 acres on a mountainous terrain with a 2.5 km road running through it. One can spend an entire day soaking in the majesty of Mother Nature on foot or a quick drive-through while stopping by to click pictures on a lovely sunny afternoon.
The Himalayas truly bless the city of Gangtok with their presence and as though in grace of the safety that the Himalayan Zoological Park provides to its ecology, the views of Mt. Kanchenjunga add the cherry to the icing.
It had been a long day. We already walked around 7-8 kilometers that day and still had a lot more to go. We were in the Sikkim zoo and almost on the top when we witnessed it. It was so beautiful that we had to stop for some photos and timelapses and then we lost track of time. It was 4:30pm and the zoo had already been closed half an hour ago and we were still at least 3 kms away from the nearest gate.
We started rushing towards the exit as fast as we could but it was already too late. Everything was shut off. No lights, no people, we were TRAPPED in the ZOO. Thanks to a friend’s quick thinking, we were able to get out of there but we were still far from home. I’ll never forget this experience.