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Aaditya Thackeray, the penguins at Mumbai zoo and the controversy surrounding them: Here is all you need to know

Recently, the Mumbai Zoo has issued a tender worth Rs. 15.15 crores to recreate their natural habitat in an enclosure. As per reports, the new habitat would spread over 35,000 square feet of area and will be two-storey.

Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive, Flipper, Bubble and Mr Molt are again in the news. But who are they? They are penguins owned by Mumbai Zoo, thanks to the Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Environment for the Government of Maharashtra, Aaditya Thackeray. The Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan Mumbai, or the Mumbai Zoo, is the only place in the country where you can witness seven penguins having fun in their man-made habitat. These penguins, however, have been mired in controversy ever since, including Aaditya Thackeray, who is now being questioned about the move.

All of them are Humboldt penguins that were bought from Seoul, South Korea, in July 2016. The species of the penguins have been named after the explorer Alexander von Humboldt from Chile, which is the original habitat of these flightless birds. At that time, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had bought eight penguins (three male and five female) for Rs. 2.5 crores.

The new controversy

Recently, the Mumbai Zoo has issued a tender worth Rs. 15.15 crores to recreate their natural habitat in an enclosure. As per reports, the new habitat would spread over 35,000 square feet of area and will be two-storey. To ensure the health and well-being of the birds, the temperature of the whole enclosure should be maintained between 16 degrees Celsius to 18 degrees Celsius. The water temperature in the pond would remain between 11 degrees Celsius and 16 degrees Celsius. Such conditions require huge costs and have attracted yet another controversy revolving around the birds.

Interestingly, it is not only BJP or opposition parties that have opposed the project. Shiv Sena’s ally Congress as well has targeted BMC over the tender worth Rs. 15 crores+. They have termed the project a waste of money. Critics are questioning the BMC why the whole project is being outsourced rather than setting up a mechanism to take care of the birds.

BJP leader Prabhakar Shinde also raised the question over the increased amount of the tender. He said, “The earlier contract was awarded for Rs 10 crore. The BMC needs to justify the inflated cost.” OpIndia tried reaching out to Shinde but could not connect.

Ravi Raja, Congress, said, “The penguins have been here for more than five years now. The BMC should have built an in-house facility to take care of them. They need to spend more money on rebuilding the health infrastructure in the city.”

BMC justified the tender cost

BMC, on the other hand, have tried to justify the cost. They said that it would include the cost of veterinary charges, fodder cost, air conditioning and ventilation system, exhibit maintenance and quarantine area. It further added that the new enclosure is essential to ensure the bird lives. Otherwise, according to BMC, their lives would be at risk.

The death of penguins

One of the penguins, Dory, that were bought initially died due to a bacterial infection and faulty climatic conditions within two months of arrival to India. At that time, Thackeray was heavily criticized for bringing such expensive birds “only to die”.

Earlier in 2018, Highway Constructions, the company that is currently maintaining the enclosure, was fined Rs. 1.4 crores as the company falsely claimed that they have a joint venture with a company that has expertise in developing a support system for aquatic life. The three-year contract is ending with the company soon.

Another round of criticism came in the way of BMC when a newly-born Humboldt penguin died within seven days of its birth. It was the first penguin to be born in India. According to the official statement, it died due to birth anomalies.

Experts believe that Dory died due to a sudden change in the environment, and no one was trained to handle the exotic birds. Many have said it was a bad decision to bring the birds to be hot and humid in India.

The good news

Amidst all the controversies, two penguin chicks, named Oreo and Flipper, were born in the zoo. Oreo was born in May, while Flipper was born in August this year. Four-months old Oreo is living happily with the colony. On the other hand, Flipper is still under strict observation. 

The controversy around ‘Baby Penguin’

For the controversies penguins have caused in the past few years, many have started calling Aaditya Thackeray “Baby Penguin”. The hashtag makes its way to social media platforms every now and then. Last year, a man named Sameet Thakkar was arrested over a complaint filed against him for calling Aaditya Baby Penguin on social media. The controversy went on for months, and he was released from jail in November.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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