Story Title: The Zoo

By Husien Chunawala
Word Count: 530

Rajiv Gandhi Zoo

The Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park is very popular attraction for children and is also a learning experience. Also known as the Rajiv Gandhi Udyan, it is a city zoo displaying a variety of animals and reptiles which are found all over all the country. The Pune zoo is located in Katraj and is run by the Pune Municipal Corporation.

The Pune zoo is actually divided into 3 parts: an animal orphanage, a snake park and a zoo. And it also includes a 42-acre lake. The idea of the zoo was first floated by Mr. Neelamkumar Khaire and it first took shape in the form of the Katraj Snake Park in 1986. The Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, a broader based zoo, was opened in 1991.

In recent times the zoo has been facing some problems. Thousands of trees were cut down, which is against the law. The zoo had two female Indian elephants: Poornima and Lakhmi; and they both got infected and died of hunger. The most shocking case of the zoo was the fact that thirteen fully grown peacocks were stolen from the zoo in one single night.

The Pune zoo mostly contains reptiles and mammals and is separated into 2 sections: one for reptiles and one for mammals. Later a small zoo and a botanical garden were also created alongside to provide additional attractions to the park. In 1999, with help of the government, the zoo expanded its number of animals.

The zoo has a pretty good collection of reptiles, mammals and some birds. This zoo has a white tiger and a tiger named, 'Tanaji'. Other mammals at the zoo include leopards, sloth bears, black bucks, etc. Reptiles include the Indian rock python, cobra, vipers & the Indian crocodile. Today the zoo has around a hundred and six varieties of snakes and reptiles. Besides these there are some rare brown palm civets, tigers, elephants, deer, chinkaras, wild buffaloes, birds, turtles, crocodile, wolf, hyenas, jackals, etc.

The story about crocodiles is interesting. Some years ago, the zoo authorities felt that the crocodile population was growing too fast, and so they decided to 'return some crocodiles to their original habitat' (environment). And so, crocodiles were released into the Khadakwasla Lake, Katraj Lake etc.; which means that now you have to be very careful when you visit theses lakes!

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Story Title: Pune's Flora

By Akshay Sharma
Word Count: 570

Empress Garden

Flora means plants, trees and flowers. Due to its climate and a number of rivers, lakes & ponds, Pune has many plant species, from trees to flowering plants to aquatic plants. There are many areas in this city which have many species and are crucial to the environment (bio-diversity hotspots) and therefore are eco-sensitive.

Many plant species in Pune have become endangered. Some of the species found in Pune fall under the category of herbs. According to a study, Pune has a large number of herb species - estimated to consist of about 600 species.

Pune has many tree species that grow here in parks, on roadsides and in personal gardens around the city. Don't miss the Chafa tree and Peepal tree at Parvati that are said to have been planted in the Peshwa era. The Forest Nursery near the Empress Garden has the Pandhari Sawar which are said to be 'Heritage' trees. An Anjan tree also grows here. The tree with a massive trunk seen at the junction of Bajirao Road and Tilak Road is a Boabab tree. A lonely Black Pearl grows in the Pune University Botanical garden.

An about 12 metre tall Australian chestnut tree is seen at Pant Got, off the Tilak Road which is said to have been planted about 50 years ago. A tree with highly fragrant blooms called Ylang-Ylang grows in the lane next to Tilak Smarak. A stately Beeja tree grows in the compound of the Yashwantrao Natyagruha in Kothrud.

One of the places to get a good glimpse of our flora is the Empress Garden near the Pune Cathedral (large church). Another place would be the Botanical garden on Koregaon Road, where research is conducted on plant species; but getting in there may not be too easy. The banks of the Khadakwasla lake, especially after the monsoon, are in full bloom and often remind us of the beautiful Kas plateau, near Satara, which is a true flower valley!

One of the best areas to visit in Pune for encountering great flora is the Vetal hill. The forest found in this area is dry deciduous. Apart from native plants, there are other important species as well in this area but they were not native and were planted here earlier. Interestingly, there is a complete absence of 'epiphytic' species in this area. Epiphytic plants grow on other plants and use them for physical support. The presence of Herb species is at its prime in the monsoon season.

There are also parasite species found here. (Parasite plants draw their food from other plants.) There was a study carried out on the diversity of flora in Vetal Hill in 1997. According to this study, there were 416 species of flowering plants belonging to 101 different 'families'. There are some species which are endangered.

Another biodiversity hotspot in Pune is the area of the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary hosts many varieties of flora. The many water bodies that are present in Pune host many species of aquatic flowering plants. 80% of these species are harbored by the Mutha river.

In-spite of the pressures put on Pune by the rapid growth of the city, it continues to boast of varied plant life. But, for how long? If no action is taken, more and more species will become endangered. Places like Katraj hill have to be saved from construction, so that important plant species don't disappear forever.

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Story Title: Pune's Fauna

By Akshay Sharma
Word Count: 545

Storks

Pune's Fauna means the animals or the animal life of our city and surroundings. Like with the environment in general there is a serious threat to the many different species of animals in Pune due to the rapid urbanisation that is taking place.

In Pune, there are forests, plantations, wetlands, grasslands, water bodies and public gardens, and together they host many different types of faunal life. All types of animal life is present in this city.

The water bodies in this city, especially the rivers like Mula, Mutha and Pavana along with lakes such as Pashan and Bhugaon play host to many different species of aquatic insects. Those aquatic insects that prefer polluted water, marshy areas and water bodies with weeds are the most dominant. However there are other species which thrive in relatively cleaner water.

Many types of ants are found in Pune. Myrmicaria are the small red ants that bite and are the most common. Pune is blessed with a great variety of butterflies. According to one estimate there are about 170 species of butterflies in Pune. Some of the prominent species found in Pune are the Danaid Eggfly and the Blue Pansy.

The two main rivers of Pune, i.e. Mula and Mutha are highly polluted and therefore the fish life in them is restricted. The introduction of exotic fish species has had an adverse impact on the native species as these new fish species compete for the same resources and have driven away fishes which are native.

Many amphibians are found in Pune, though five of them have recently gone extinct. There are 52 reptile species that have been found in Pune area. A large number of them are snakes. There are 332 species of birds in Pune. 1989 saw the first bird census being done in Pune by Dr. Prakash Gole, a known ornithologist. More than 200 unique bird species were recorded then. The Great Indian bustard is perhaps the most famous bird of this area.

Winter in the city sees these birds fly thousands of miles and throng to Pune. Some of them come from as far as Siberia and Western Europe. It is a great time for Ornithologists (people who study birds), bird-watching enthusiasts.

A separate bird sanctuary on the river bank in Yerwada was proposed some years ago, but the vast land has been lying barren and yet to be developed into a sanctuary.

More than 90% of the bird species live in the wilderness and that is why if forests continue to disappear this may endanger many species. Some species like sparrow, crow and common myna prefer to dwell around human habitations. Many species of birds are water birds.

There are 65 species of mammals in Pune. In recent years there has been an increase in the population of rodents, especially, rats and mice. So, we have lots of dogs and lots of rats! Urbanisation, deforestation, construction has meant that animals like wild boar and flying foxes are struggling to survive. Leopards prowl the outskirts of the city.

Pune ranks very high among Indian cities in terms of the diversity of mammal species. Somehow, we have to preserve these animals, and that means preserving their habitat. (Habitat is the natural environment and living conditions of the animals).

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