Conservation breeding programme of critically endangered species is one of the aspects of scientific management of the zoo. Global captive breeding programme was started in the early 1990s in Europe. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is also a part of this breeding programme for the Red Pandas and Snow Leopard in West Bengal.
Project Red Panda:
Initially, the Zoo started the Red Panda Project with 1:3 wild stocks in the year of 1990. The first successful planned breeding was recorded on 20.06.1994. At present, this Zoo has 17 (10♂, 7♀) Red Pandas. The Zoo was able to restock four Red Pandas back to the wild (Gairibans area of Singalila National Park) as a conservation initiative following the guidelines stipulated by the IUCN for re-introduction / re-stocking of captive born wild animals. The genetic analysis of blood and faecal samples analysed by CCMB in 2013 showed that the captive breed Red Panda at the Park are genetically vibrant and can be used selectively for Conservation Breeding.
The CZA approved St. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital as participating Zoo in the year of 2013-14. On 25.11.2014, a pair of Red Panda was transferred to Nainital, who gave birth two cubs in 2015 and recently one captive female was added to the captive stock from Sikkim Zoo for further breeding.
The two new enclosures measuring about 210 sqm each for Red Panda and two enclosures measuring about 680sqm each for Snow Leopard have been constructed at Topkedara. Two pairs of Red Panda have been shifted on 07.12.2015 in the new enclosure after enriching the same by making aerial walkways, breeding boxes, resting shades etc.
Project Snow Leopard:
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, (PNHZP) can also rightfully boast of being the only Zoo in South East Asia with one of the most successful conservation breeding programme of highly endangered Snow Leopard . The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling started work on captive breeding project of this rare species in the year of 1983. Experts Dr. Ingo Rieger and D. Walzthoeny from USA inspected the site in July.1983 and gave their approval. Site selection for off-display conservation breeding centre for snow leopard is finalised at the North-western corner of Jawhar Parbat (Birch Hill) at an Latitude of 27 °N and longitude 88°E with an altitude 6900ft. A total of 56 snow leopard births have been recorded in the park. In the year 2003, the Park had 18 (9♂, 9♀) snow leopards – one of the largest captive populations in a single zoo in the world. In 2004 a pair of each of snow leopard was sent to different Himalayan Zoos to start subsidiary snow leopard breeding centres.
Genetic study of the captive stock of snow leopard done by LaCONES, CCMB concluded that 1♂, 1♀out of the total captive stock are genetically more vibrant and two individuals can be used for conservation breeding. Demographic analysis suggested that the new founders be added to the captive population and the population size be increased to at least 100 individuals with equal sex ratio in the period of next ten years. Based on the genetic and demographic analysis of the captive stock 2♂, 2♀individuals was included in the captive.
As on 31.03.2016, the Park has 9 (1:8) snow leopards after death of one male in 2014, 2 males in 2015 and 1 male in 2016. An animal exchange programme has been proposed with Dudley Zoo and Mulhouse Zoo in consultation with International Stud Book Keeper to fulfil the objective of this captive breeding programme
Following works have been taken up for future development:-
Besides Red Panda and Snow Leopard, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling has done excellent works with planned conservation breeding of Himalayan Wolf, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Tahr, Markhor, and Asian Palm Civet. Breeding were also observed in the year 205-16 in respect of Grey Peacock Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, Temminck’s Tragopan. This Park is the only zoo in the world to breed Himalayan Wolf in captivity.
The centre was started since 1990 and since then the PNHZP; Darjeeling donated 13 individuals to different zoos. PNHZP, Darjeeling is the co-ordinating Zoo in the Conservation Breeding Programme of this species. In 2007 Himalayan Zoological Park, Sikkim , Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri and Pt. Govind Ballabh High Altitude Zoo, Nainital were declared as participating Zoo for the conservation breeding of this species. The Park has 6 nos. (1 ♂and 5 ♀) as on 31.03.2016.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is the participating zoo in the Conservation Breeding Programme of this species. From 2010 to 2015 the park has witnessed a total birth of 14 nos. blue sheep from the two pairs of founder stock taking the captive population to a total number of 18 individuals. Presently the Park has 11 individuals (8♂and 3 ♀)as on 31.03.2016.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is also recognised as the participating zoo in the Conservation Breeding Programme of Himalayan Tahr. The Park has witnessed a total of 9 births with 68% of survivality rate of fawns from two pairs of founder stock. The Park has at present 8 individuals (4♂and 4♀) as on 31.03.2016
In this conservation breeding programme, Sikkim Zoo is the co-ordinating and Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is a participating Zoo for this species. Currently the Park holds no stock of Satyr Tragopan, as no breeding achieved from the founder stock and all individuals perished due to one reason beyond control.
Efforts to procure individuals to initiate breeding are in process. A short term research project entitled “Studies on biology, behaviour and aviary practices for improvement performances of captive Himalayan Pheasants” funded by the Central Zoo Authority for a period of two years are in progress.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is the participating zoo for the conservation breeding programme of Himalayan monal. Currently, the Park has 4 individuals (2♂and 2 ♀) Himalayan Monal. Both the pairs are not viable for breeding. Modification of the existing peasantries according to species suitability and weather are in considerations.
Bhutan Grey Peacock Pheasant
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is the participating zoo for the conservation breeding programme of this species. Since initiation of this programme, 18 individuals (National Stud Book WII 2010) have so far bred. At present the Park has a total number of 5 (3♂and 2 ♀) Grey Peacock Pheasant.
Conservation Breeding Centre, Zoological Garden, Alipore, Kolkata
Brow Antlered Deer, Rucervus eldii eldii McClelland, 1842
A conservation breeding programme of Brow Antlered Deer sponsored by the Central Zoo Authority has been initiated at this zoo involving Assam State Zoo, Guwahati, Manipur Zoo and National Zoological Park, New Delhi. The objective of the said programme is to study the heterozygosity of the individual Brow antlered Deer of the aforesaid four zoos of India by DNA analysis from the faecal samples of the target species for finding genetically suitable individuals towards recommendations of steps to be taken for conservation breeding of the said species. DNA analysis has been carried out by LaCONES, Hyderabad. The Garden had 11 (7 ♂,4♀) Brow Antlered Deer as on 31.03.2016
Grey Peacock Pheasant, Polyplectron bicalcaratum bakeri (Lowe, 1925)
An off display area in the south – east corner of the zoo has been identified for this species. Programme is yet to be initiated soon.
Fishing Cat , Prionailurus viverrinus Bennett, 1833
To augment the depleting populations of Fishing Cat, a concept plan for establishing one conservation breeding centre at the Zoological Garden, Alipore has been sent to the Central Zoo Authority for approval.
Conservation Breeding Centre, Bhagatpur, Sundarban, Dist. South 24 Parganas for Salt Water Crocodile, Crocodilus porosus Schneider, 1801
The project was started in mid twentieth Century, i. e. 1976 with an aim to increase the number of saltwater crocodiles, a Schedule-I species under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in the water of Sundarban. The project is situated at Bhagatpur, next to the uninhabited Lothian Island, far from the mainland in the Sunderbans archipelago.
Crocodile eggs were collected from different islands of Sundarban and they are hatched artificially. A total of 389 nos. crocodiles were released in the water of sundarban during 1987 to 2013 with successful 35% hatching rate. The project got a fresh start in January 2015 with the help of renowned experts in herpetology. The inputs and training provided by the experts helped in raising the eggs to hatching ratio, which is now over 70 from previous rate. Also in the last one year, nearly 75 sub-adult crocodiles in the Sunderbans have been released. Out of this at least 50 crocodiles have been tagged to keep a check on their condition in the wild.
Conservation Breeding Centre, Sajnakhali , Sundarban, Dist. South 24 Parganas for Batagur Terrapin, Batagur baska (Gray, 1830)
A hatchery and captive breeding project was established in Sajnekhali Forest Station in the Sunder ban Tiger Reserve. Many individuals hatched and hopefully population increases day by day and the species returned from the eve of the extinction point.The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), in partnership with the West Bengal Forest Department, has been managing a conservation breeding program for this species within the Sunderbans region of India
Conservation Breeding Centre at Rajabhatkhaua, Dist. Alipurduar for Vulture
Rajabhatkhawa Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre where successful breeding of Oriental white-backed vulture and Long-billed vulture has occurred including the rarest species, a slender-billed vulture. There are plans in place to initiate artificial incubation of vulture eggs and rearing of vultures at Rajabhatkhawa facility in West Bengal.
VCBC has enclosures called aviaries of different types for breeding, nursing, looking after sick and injured vultures and colonies for vultures to live in. Main objective of this centre is to ensuring survival and scaling up of conservation breeding initiative, to explorea sustainable livestock sourcing project for feeding captive vultures through a community-based livelihood initiative, to make viable expansion of vulture safe zones, to release captive-bred birds in safe zones, to strengthen sensitization and monitoring activities and to continue research for safer alternatives to the banned drugs.