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The Zoological Garden, Mysore

   The Zoological Garden was established by Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar, one of the architects of modern Mysore. He was a lover of nature and was responsible for creating many parks and gardens. The famous Bandipur Game Sanctuary was established during his time for entertaining important guests who visited his State and also for providing an opportunity for them to see the wild animals in their natural habitat. The Zoo Garden was created in a portion of the Summer Palace or Pleasure Palace in the eastern part of Mysore City. Then called the Palace Zoo, it was opened in 1892. Initially, the Zoo covered an area of 10 acres of the Summer Palace. The Maharaja engaged the services of Mr. G.H. Krumbeigal, German landscaper and horticulturist, who had created the beautiful and the famous Brindavan Gardens in Krishnarajasagar and the Cubbon Park in Bangalore. A lover of animals, the Maharaja took care to see that spacious and aesthetic enclosures are provided to the wild animals, which continue to be useful even today. Mr. Huge, an Australian, who was selected for the purpose and appointed as the Zoo Superintendent, a few years later supervised the expansion of the zoo to 45 acres. On realising the popularity of the Zoo after 10 years of its beginning, the Maharaja felt it would be appropriate to open the institution to the public considering its importance as a recreational and educational value. It was carved out from the adjoining Summer Palace and became a separate part. Over the years, it became popular as the Mysore Zoo.
During those days, there were only a few zoos established by the Maharajas, Nawabs and British rulers in only a few provinces. Besides Mysore, only Madras (Chennai), Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), Calcutta (Kolkota), Lucknow and Victoria Garden in Bombay (Mumbai) had similar zoos. But, the Mysore Zoo came to be recognised as one of the best zoos in the country. Besides an excellent collection of animals, the Mysore Zoo could boast of a beautiful bandstand having in the backdrop the Chamundi Hills and also artificial lakes. After its expansion, the Mysore Zoo was renamed as Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, after its illustrious founder, in 1909. 
Whenever the Maharajas visited Africa and European countries, they selected rare and interesting animals such as chimpanzees, giraffe, antelopes, primates, birds and bears and added to their collection. The task of crating and transporting the animals was entrusted to animal dealers. One such important dealer was Mr. Herman Ruhe, a German who owned different zoos in Germany. Animals available in the Mysore forests were exchanged for the animals procured from other countries and as a result acquisition of a large number of animals of different species was possible. Mr. Ruhe was a close associate of the Mysore Zoo for more than eight decades. During his association with the Mysore Zoo for over five decades, Mr. Albert Meems, a colleague of Mr. Ruhe, travelled a number of times along with animals procured for the Zoo. These dealers had excellent knowledge in exchanging and transporting the wild animals. They not only accompanied the animals taking good care of them but also guided the Zoo authorities on rearing the animals in the local conditions. The Maharajas, besides adding rare and exotic collection of wild animals, also converted the Mysore Zoo into an 'orphanage' for rearing abandoned animals, such as calves of elephants, gaur, tigers and leopards. The elephant calves caught in the famous Khedda operations were reared here, before being sent abroad. Breeding of many exotic animals such as zebra, eland/antelope, barbery sheep, emus, giraffe and kangaroos was done successfully in the zoo and given away to other zoos in India and abroad. Superintendents like Mr. Huge, Mr. Siddaraje Urs and Mr. S. Anantharamaiah nourished and administered the Zoo bringing it a place of pride among the zoos in the country.
After Independence, the Zoo was gifted from the Palace to the Department of Parks and Gardens of the Mysore State Government in 1948. When Dr. M.H. Marigowda, who had been educated at Harvard and worked in Kew Gardens became the Director of Parks and Gardens, the Zoo was expanded with the acquisition of 50 acres of the adjoining Kensington Garden with its famous 'Thandi Sadak' (Cool Avenue) or 'Daly Avenue', from the Palace. Later the 150-acre Karanji Tank area was also added to the Zoo, expanding it to the present 250 acres. Programmes for breeding rare animals were taken up.

New enclosures on modern lines with fences and moats were built and a face-lift was given. Man-made islands were created and trees were planted in the Karanji Tank water body, converting it into a miniature sanctuary of birds like painted storks, grey pelicans, Cormorants, Darters, spoonbills, Ibis, Jacana, Coots, various ducks and other species of birds. Boating facility for visitors was arranged. In 1972, the Government handed over the Zoo management to the Forest Department and subsequently it was entrusted to an autonomous body in 1979. The Zoo Authority of Karnataka became the first of its kind in India to manage a zoo. By then, the Zoo had become a successful captive breeding centre for several rare and endangered species such as chimpanzee, hippopotamus, great Indian one-horned rhino, African black rhino, Asian elephant, giraffe, tigers, lions and other animals. Besides becoming first in producing some of these rare animals in captivity, it became famous as one of the first zoos in the world where a successful caesarian surgery was done on an elephant. Dr. Bird, an Australian gynecologist, carried this out. By 1986-87, it could boast of an excellent collection of 885 wild animals and birds, apart from many firsts to its credit. It was successful in breeding 87 species of both exotic and indigenous animals in captivity. 
Even now the over a century old Mysore Zoo has its own distinctive exhibits with modern and spacious enclosures, walk-throughs, a veterinary hospital with accommodation for quarantine, operation theatre, medicine rooms and wards for animals. It also carries out educational activities relating to animals. The Mysore Zoo has become an important tourist attraction in the city.
Location: About 3 kms from the City Bus Stand and 2 kms from the Palace. 
Timings: 8-30 a.m. to 5-30 p.m.
Weekly Off: Tuesday
Annual Feast: August 11, every year.

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