Dhaka Zoo is the largest zoo in Bangladesh situated at Mirpur about 16 km from the centre of Dhaka city.
It is the national zoo under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, started as a menagerie at the High Court premises in Dhaka in 1964, and moved to its present location in 1974. In the same year it was ceremonially opened for public on June 23.
The zoo occupies an area of about 75 hectares. It has two lakes of about 13 hectares which receive thousands of waterfowls every year in winter.
The total number of vertebrate fauna in the zoo is about 2,150 in 191 species. Included in these animals are about 551 mammals under 64 species, 1,543 birds under 90 species, 73 reptiles under 15 species, and about 104 aquarium fishes under 23 species. To attract visitors besides many fascinating animals, there are 15 tigers, 21 lions, 9 hippopotamus, about 200 monkeys, and 33 pythons. Moreover, some rare and interesting animals such as the rhea, peacock, zebra, elephant, African grey parrot, water buck, impala, emus, baboon, chimpanzee, gayal, black bear, tapir, mandrill, and estuarine crocodile provide additional entertainment to the visitors.
The zoo has a captive breeding programme and successfully bred the Royal Bengal Tiger, lion, leopard, primates, deer, and many birds. It has animal exchange programmes with many zoos of the world. Currently a tigress has given birth to three cubs.
Kazi Fazlul Haque, curator, Dhaka zoo, said that they are facing accommodation problem due to rapidly increasing population.
“This is the reproductive season of lions and tigers. We are keeping fertile males and females in separate cages to control birth of new babies,” he said. “We are facing severe accommodation problem as the current number of lion and tiger is already beyond our capacity,” he added.
Recently a tigress has given birth to three cubs. Haque said that the current number of lions in the zoo is 19 and tiger population is 15 whereas their display capacity is only four pairs.
For accommodation problem, the authorities have kept six to eight lions in cages fit for only one pair. They also kept two pairs of lions in the quarantine centre of the zoo.
“Other than problem with accommodation we have to spend extra money to feed these animals,” Haque said.
“For each lion and tiger 12kgs of meat is sanctioned. We feed them six days a week. For each additional tiger or lion we have to spend Tk. 1740. We are always in a budget constraints and this only adds to the problem”, Haque said.
“The additional number of animal is holding back our development programmes. We wanted to add new animals to make the zoo more attractive”, he said.
Haque mentioned that zoo would face the worst problem with hippopotamus if new babies were born.
“Since hippopotamus needs ponds in their habitat it is going to be really hard if they reproduce. We don’t have space for new ponds,” he said. Currently the number of hippopotamus population is 9.
The zoo authority had a severe accommodation problem in the deer cages but they found a way to solve the problem. The zoo has a scheme of selling deer. Price of each pair is Tk 30,000. Last year they had sold around 70 deer.
The Museum is an important addition to the Dhaka Zoo. It is a two-storied building located at the southwest corner of the zoo housed fish aquarium, library and lecture theatre. Various rare animals and birds are preserved by stuffing and in jar. It contributes in recreation, learning and research.
As gifts Bangladesh government presented about 300 zoo animals to different organisations and personalities of different countries including Saudi Arabia , Kuwait , Bahrain , and Iraq . The zoo regularly organizes various education programmes for students. The various ornamental features of the garden provides an aesthetic background to the animal houses, enclosures and aviaries, scattered all over the area, exhibiting indigenous fauna of Bangladesh as well as exotic specimens collected from different countries of the world.
Outside Dhaka there are 5 more zoos in the towns of Rangpur, Chittagong , Rajshahi, Comilla, and Khulna . The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock runs the Rangpur Zoo, and the Khulna Zoo is looked after by armed forces. Local government authorities run the other 3 zoos.
Kazi Fazlul Haque, curator of Dhaka Zoo informed that about 3 million visitors visit the Zoo every year. Except Sunday the zoo remains open on other weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (October-March) and from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (April-September). It also remains opens to the visitors for certain hours during government holidays. The beautiful natural environments of the zoo offer almost all recreational facilities to the visitors, a large part of which is constituted by the students and children. There is an information centre at the entrance. The visitors can seek any necessary information there. Even wheel chairs are available for old and disabled persons. The zoo has an advisory committee headed by the Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Outlining the future programmes Mr. Haque said, the authority has taken projects upgrading atmospheres and the facilities of the zoo. The most important among them is upgrading the zoo as like Safari Park so that the animals may moves openly and people would visit them within protection cage. Another plan is providing battery regulated client cars for old persons and children. The other plans include developing the children park of the zoo, to thrive the zoo museum and starts zoo education. A new dolphin corner and a butterfly garden will be set up at Dhaka Zoo to attract more visitors.