Did you read about our brief visit to Ghoom? Post breakfast we reached Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park which is perhaps the only dedicated zoo in the India and globally recognized for its conservation breeding programs of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and other highly dying out animal species of Eastern Himalaya. Strolling inside the Himalayan Zoo meant some uphill walk while enjoying the captive mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles at both sides. The variety of inhabitants of the zoo came out to be much higher than what I had assumed and it is always a sweet-bitter experience how majority of the parents behave inside a zoo when they are with their kids.
I was glad that I didn’t need to wait for a dream to pitch a tent in Hemis National Park to track the ‘extreme privacy loving’ Snow leopard or trek through Singalila National Park fantasizing to spot an ‘over shy’ Red Panda… Yea, undoubtedly spotting them in their natural wild habitat is totally a different experience but getting a glimpse of those much talked about celebrities, even though in enclosures wasn’t really unsatisfactory for me. Other residents you’re likely to encounter in Darjeeling Zoo are Black leopard, Leopard cat, Tiger, Tibetan wolf, Black bear, Blue sheep, Yak, Barking deer, Sambhar deer, Palm civet, Wild Himalayan goat, Jackal, Tortoise, various types of pheasants, Jungle fowl, Parrot, Myna, Macaw etc.
There were a lot more than I can remember at the moment and certainly would interest most of you but my indifference for biology when it comes to names/nomenclatures doesn’t let me to remember more than a few names. Oh one more thing, this zoo remains closed on every Thursday. At one end of the Himalayan Zoo, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is located with adjacent HMI Museum. In HMI you can enroll for the basic mountaineering as well as advanced mountaineering courses and it’s more than affordable but I’ve heard that seats are limited, so they get filled up real fast. Our Zoo ticket also included permission to enter the HMI Museum which once again I found worth visiting (photography not allowed inside!). If you’re curious about mountaineering you’ll be amazed by the historical photos, documents and souvenirs preserved there for display. The high-altitude hiking gears inside the glass boxes and case-models will surely ignite your adventure spirit and provoke you to climb for thin air and frosty rocks.
I saluted those great mountaineers (like great Tenzing Norgay) whose mementos were at display and left the museum, vaguely promising myself to squeeze out a month time to join basic mountaineering course someday. Our driver Bikram was impatiently waiting for us outside the zoo. I'm determined to dedicate the next blog post to Darjeeling Tea. Watch out tea lovers!