The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a majority of industries this year, including tourism and hospitality among others. In Visakhapatnam, the ripple effect has trickled down to major tourist attractions including the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park which has been shut for visitors since a couple of months now. With revenue streams drying up, the authorities have come up with a unique proposition for animal lovers in Vizag, who can now adopt the zoo animals virtually, and pay for their upkeep. Regular updates and videos of the animals will be sent to their adopted ‘parents’ who can continue to connect with them, despite the physical distance.
Speaking about the prevailing conditions at the zoo with Yo! Vizag, Zoo Curator Nandani Salaria said, “With the onset of summer holidays, tourists would visit our zoo every year in large numbers. However, with the zoo being shut, there is no income from visitors anymore. It is true that our revenue has dropped drastically since the pandemic started. We’re looking at losses of nearly Rs 1 crore at present. ”
While the state government funds essential activities at the zoo, infrastructure upkeep and upgradation is stalled due to loss in revenue. It is a loss for visitors who cannot connect with these wild animals too, the Vizag zoo curator said.
The zoo’s adoption drive is to promote the same. Through the zoo’s website, visitors can choose to adopt from 25 different species, including lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos. Once they complete payment for a certain time period for an animal, they will be sent short videos and updates on how the animal is holding up. “This way, people can re-establish connection with the wild animals right from their homes. We are also going to introduce virtual tours very soon on our social media handles,” she added.
Speaking about the adoption drive’s significance to wildlife conservation, Nandani Salaria said, “My request to people is to keep loving animals at our zoo, as they are ambassadors for their respective endangered species out in the wild. Their contributions would help create better conditions for animals everywhere.”