Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, popularly known as ‘Mysore Zoo’, is one of the oldest zoos of the country established in 1892, by His Highness, the erst while Ruler of Mysore Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur. Mysore Zoo holds an important place in Karnataka. In 1909 the Palace Zoo was named as Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens to commemorate the illustrious founder and since then it bears the nomenclature.
Mysore Zoo was started with an area of 10.9 Acres and during 1907 another 6.22 acre was added to the zoo. Subsequently the zoo was extended to 45 acres. A great visionary man Dr. M.H. Marigowda was instrumental in acquiring Kensington Gardens, along with famous Thandisadak from the palace and 5 acres of land towards western side including the road from C.I.T.B. Mysore. The Zoo area extended to 80.13 acres over a period of time. Government transferred 77.02 acres of Karanji Tank area to the Zoo during the year 1976.The master plan of Zoo covers 80.13 acres along with the 77.03 acres of Karanji Lake; right in the heart of Mysore city.
Mysore Maharajas took keen interest in zoo management and development. Mr. G.H. Krumbeigal, German Landscaper and Horticulturist were engaged to provide efficient management & development, who had also created the beautiful and now well-known Brindavan Gardens in Mysore and the Cubbon Park in Bangalore. An Australian by name Mr. Huge was selected to work as the Superintendent and thereafter Mr. Siddaraje Urs and Mr. S. Anantharamaiah.
The administrative control of the zoo was transferred from Palace to Horticulture department during 1948. In the year 1972, the Govt. felt that the Forest Department would be a proper parental department to nurture the famous Mysore zoo, so the management was transferred from the Parks and gardens department to Forest department. The Zoo was under the management of Forest department till 1979, when the Government decided to create an autonomous body i.e., Zoo Authority of Karnataka to run the Zoo. Since 2001 all eight zoos in the state transferred to ZAK for administrative control & management.
When the Maharajas visited European countries and Africa, they used to select interesting animals such as Chimpanzees, Giraffes and other Antelopes, Primates, Birds and Bears. One of the important dealers was Mr. Herman Ruhe, a German who owned different Zoos in Germany. Another feature of Mysore zoo was its role as “Orphanage” for rearing abandoned animals such as the calves of elephant and gaur, tiger and leopard cubs and other young ones. In addition, elephant calves were caught in Khedda were reared and subsequently sent abroad to various zoos. Rhinos were added during 1956. In 1977, a pair of Gorilla, a pair of Orangutans and some Chimpanzees were acquired and for the first time in Indian zoo history, all three species of large apes were housed together.
As an attempt to improve the genetic quality of the Sangai, Mysore zoo was the first zoo to acquire animals from both blood lines i.e., that of Culcutta and of Delhi Zoo. A white elephant considered sacred by many, was a special attraction and also rearing penguins in Mysore zoo was a speciality.
A pair of Red Kangaroos was received from National Zoological Park, Washington DC and two lemurs have been received from Duke University, one pair of Giraffe was received from Germany during 1986. It was a great opportunity to add some rare species like Sun Bear, Binturong, female Chimpanzee, Indian Rhinoceros, White Peafowl, Hanuman Langurs, Indian Lions, Rhea, Zebra, Red Ibis, Penguins, Baboons and Kangaroos.
Zoo displays native and exotic animal species in natural settings, providing conservation education and experience based tourism activities. At present there are 1450 individuals belonging to 170 different species. The large number of animals is exotics like Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Zebra, Giraffe, African Rhinos, Tapir, Marmoset, Lemur, Baboon, Emu, and Cassowary etc. Even among the native fauna, there is a great diversity comprising Felids, Candies, Bovines, Deer, Antelopes, Primates, Reptiles, Birds, etc. All these beautiful and majestic animals can be seen in open natural enclosures. Hence, a visit to Mysore zoo is quite rewarding.
Some of the rare and exotic species like Polar Bear, Secretary Bird, California Sea Lions, and American Bison have been reared successfully in the past.
Breeding of many exotic animals such as Zebra, Wild beast or Eland Antelope, Barberry Sheep, Emus, Giraffe, Kangaroos and achieved successfully in Mysore Zoo and distributed to various zoos in the country and abroad.
Systematic propagation of wild animals was initiated and Mysore Zoo succeeded in breeding several species such as Chimpanzee, Hippo, Great Indian One horned rhino, African Black Rhino and other animals.
As part of breeding, the African Black Rhinos hormone was administered to a non-breeding male Rhino for the first time. This resulted in the birth of young one in the year 1965. And this has resulted in holding the largest number of zoo bred African Black Rhinos in Asia and perhaps in the world.
Nonetheless both the tusker (our famous White Elephant) and a cow elephant were brought together making the first real zoo birth of Asian elephant in India in the year 1967. Even during 1992 the Hamburg Zoo exhibited the mother elephant produced at Mysore Zoo, with calf in Germany. In the later 1960’s for the first time a giraffe calf was born in Mysore Zoo, thus creating a record of breeding of all large mammals in a span of 5 to 8 years.
Many other species from South and North America such as American Bison, Rheas, Guanaco, Tapir, were also bred in large numbers. In the subsequent years Mysore zoo succeeded in breeding some of the endangered species like Four Horned Antelope, Mouse Deer, Civets, Caracal, Chinkara, Nilgiri langur, Lemur, Binturong, Leopard Cat, etc. Mysore Zoo rose to the occasion and bred large number of tigers, which are now exhibited and are breeding in many zoos. During the year 2011-12 a series of birth of many important and rare mammals such as wild dog, great Indian wolf, cheetah, giraffe, striped hyena, hippo brought loads of acclaim and wide appreciation in both print and electronic media. Specially successful breeding of wild dogs, wolf and first time cheetah birth in captivity in India is worth mentioning.
From the beginning, enclosures for animals were made spacious and aesthetic such that even today, they are still quite suitable. The special feature of Mysore zoo is the meticulous planning & scientific management. Due to continuous enrichment activities, the Zoo has created natural habitat conditions for different species. It was considered a very creative idea then, the construction of double room cages with interconnected shutters. These arrangements facilitated to cleaning cages well without putting the animal to discomfort. People used to gather before the cages in wondrous awe to see how the animals were enticed to the other partition of the cage by keeping food rather than prodding and beating. The shutters helped the workers to work safely without a fear of being mauled.
A first large apes enclosure was built in the country where there were big trees, bushes and lush grasses for the animals to enjoy. A walk through reptile was constructed where the visitors could view Crocodiles, snakes, turtles and lizard species as if they were taking a walk in the wild. New enclosure for Mandrill was constructed during 1988. During 2003 one of the greatest achievements of the year was the construction of the large naturalistic and apes enclosure for Nilgiri Langurs. Mysore zoo focused on animal housing enrichments, animal comforts, hygiene and sanitation and developing better care facilities and infrastructure.
There is considerable increase in the number of visitors. As Mysore zoo has gradually grown into one of the major tourist centers, the annual visitation increased from 5 lakhs to 30 lakhs. Forty percent of them are students.
Our beloved Maharaja had the vision that the zoo was not only the place of recreation but of education as well. He ensured that brochures, guide books and animal picture cards were brought out giving information on each species so that the visitors would learn something about the wildlife of India and abroad. Better signage, Newsletter, Annual Report and also number of educational programmes reaching directly to 10000 to 15000 persons annually.
Impressed about the zoo management there is a great response to adopt zoo animals, which has resulted in adopting more than 300 animals amounting to Rs.30.00 lakhs annually.
The zoo is also producing vermi compost by making use of the available dung-waste, which brings substantial revenue to zoo.
The unnatural death of zoo animals during the year 2005 maligned zoo in general and keepers in particular.
As the lions which were produced in the zoo had no market, the management of lions became a burden to the zoo. At that time, Dr. Nan Schaeffer, Reproductive Physiologist from Chicago area zoos was invited and for the first time conducted vasectomy on lions in our zoo. Subsequently some of the zoos in the country have adopted the same method.
It was one of the first zoos in the world where a successful caesarian surgery was done on an elephant. This was carried out by Dr. Bird, an Australian gynecologist.
The Zoo had completed 100 years in 1992. The Centenary celebrations were held in 1990-91. During centenary celebrations various developmental activities were initiated such as renovation & modification of entrance gate, Hospital building, Walk Through Reptiles, etc., The bust of Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar, founder of Mysore Zoo was unveiled. The Logo of Zoo, Centenary Souvenir, publication of Literature & Leaflets, conducting various Competitions, Preparation of a documentary film were other highlights.
12th Regional CBSG Meeting for Indian and SAARC delegates was held on 12th and 13th October, 1992.
The first South Indian Zoo Directors conference sponsored by CZA was successfully held in Mysore Zoo on 22nd and 23rd December 2001.
Mysore Zoo has the ability and scope to develop into an institute of excellence in captive breeding and help the cause of wildlife conservation and education.