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Uddhav Thackeray as CM is good news for Maharashtra’s forests, wildlife and animal lovers

Apart from plans for a Bangkok-like aquarium in Mumbai, Thackeray is said to be working to save and showcase Maharashtra’s green heritage.

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Mumbai: Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister of Maharashtra seems to be good news for the state’s forests, wildlife and animal lovers. Thackeray is not just keen on saving and showcasing the rich green heritage of the state, but also the wealth the Arabian Sea holds within.

The first move in this direction came when Thackeray issued orders to the tourism department to come up with a concrete plan to set up a multi-level aquarium in Mumbai, to be modelled on the lines of the Sea Life Ocean World in Bangkok. The last Shiv Sena-led government (1995-99) had also mooted the idea of an undersea aquarium, but opposition from environmentalists and fisherfolk had led to its abandonment.

But sources said Thackeray is keen to do a lot more for the environment, as well as environmental tourism.

Also read: Discovery fan with an elephant’s memory — 5 facts about Uddhav Thackeray you didn’t know

Plans in the pipeline

Safaris running at Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Melghat Tiger Reserve and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary have been criticised as half-hearted, and are expected to be strengthened, while the facility is expected to be introduced at the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, Bor Tiger Reserve and the Nawegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve.

The Maharashtra Forest Department had introduced an adopt-an-animal programme in 2014, which didn’t find too many takers. Thackeray plans to re-introduce the programme, which will ensure that the much-needed funds can be generated to help in the upkeep of the various zoos and sanctuaries across the state.

Under this programme, any animal can be “adopted” by a common person — the forest department still owns the animal, but the adoptive person pays for its upkeep for up to a year, with an option to renew. However, under the rules, he or she has no say in the size of the cage or the food given to the animal. Similar programmes are run at the Bengaluru and Mysuru zoos.

In the first year of the programme, Thackeray’s son Aaditya had adopted a five-year old tiger Yash at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena chief’s other son Tejas had adopted two rusty spotted cats — the world’s smallest cats.

The younger Thackerays had to give up their patronage in May 2015, and the programme went on to the backburner thereafter. But now, SGNP officials are optimistic that this programme will get a much-needed push.

Thackeray is also credited with starting the tiger and lion safari at the SGNP, and was also instrumental in getting two Royal Bengal white tigers from the Aurangabad Zoo to the SGNP in 1999. Tiger Siddharth and his partner Renuka were parents to another white tiger, Bajirao, who was born in captivity and lived until the age of 18, dying in May this year.

Efforts are on by the forest department to get another pair of white tigers and Gir lions to the SGNP.

The Arabian Sea is home to various species of dolphins, some that are found as close as 50 nautical miles from the Mumbai coastline. Wildlife enthusiasts said Thackeray has shown a keen interest in dolphin tourism. Sources also said that the cash-strapped botanical gardens across the state could see a revival in the months to come.

Also read: This is what Uddhav Thackeray’s CM rule will mean for NCP, Congress & BJP

‘He understands the challenges’

Wildlife writer and environment activist Ranjeet Jadhav is happy that Thackeray is in the chief minister’s chair.

“Uddhav Thackeray is good for Maharashtra’s wildlife and environment conservation. He has been practising it and understands the challenges and need for conservation,” said Jadhav, who helps track leopards in the Aarey Milk Colony as a volunteer with the forest department.

“He should plan to establish wildlife corridors between the national parks and the wildlife sanctuaries so that animals can move around safely. He should also look into the encroachments within the national parks and sanctuaries, which are a bigger threat to the animals,” he said.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Uddhav Thackeray orders review of Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project


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