Do you love witnessing animals in their natural habitats? Enjoy watching animals that you've never seen before? Then the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the right place for you! Nestled in the town of Darjeeling of West Bengal, this zoo happens to be the largest high altitude zoo in India. The stars of this zoo are the cute and cuddly-looking Red Pandas!
Don't be fooled by its name because Red Pandas are nothing like the Kung-Fu kind of panda that everybody is familiar with! It has features that are similar to that of a raccoon plus bear, and have a coat of red fur with a white snout and white corners of their ears.
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It is called panda since the word is a derivation from the Nepalese word "Ponya" which means "Bamboo Eater". And that is the only feature they share in common with the black and white pandas, since it accounts for almost 95% of their food consumption.
Enough about these bushy-tailed and bright-eyed little rascals! You need to know what else the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo, also known as Darjeeling Zoo, has to offer. But first, some details. Established in the year 1958, the zoo allures almost 300,000 visitors every year!
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Since the park is perched at an altitude of 7000 ft, it is the largest high altitude zoo of India. It was formerly known as just the "Himalayan Zoological Park". But in 1975, Smt. Indira Gandhi, who was the prevailing Prime Minister, dedicated to the former Governor of West Bengal, Smt. Padmaja Naidu.
Wildlife Of The Darjeeling Zoo
The zoo not only houses some of the most endangered animals, but also breeds animals adapting to alpine cultures such as snow leopards, and critically endangered animals like Himalaya Wolves and of course, Red Pandas.
Other endangered species of animals include Siberian Tigers and Gorals or Mountain Goats. A variety of bird species such as Hill Mynas, Rose Ring Parakeets, Blue Gold Macaw can be witnessed. The zoo also includes animals such as Markhor, Himalayan Thar, Tibetan Wolves, Himalayan Black Bears, Yaks, Blue Sheep to name a few.
Apart from the wildlife, the zoo is home to over 200 species of shrubs, medicinal plants and trees, and almost 60 different variants of orchids. Some of the oak trees found here are slow growing and age over a 100 years!
Details Of Entry
In summer, the zoo is open from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm and in winter, it closes by 4.00 pm. The zoo is closed on Thursdays.
Indian Nationals pay Rs 20 for the entry and Foreign Nationals pay Rs 50. An extra fare of Rs 10 will be charged for carrying cameras.
Best Time To Visit The Darjeeling Zoo
The ideal time to visit this zoo would be between March to June or September to January when the climate remains pleasant. The animals would also be cheerful and come out into the clearings.
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How To Reach Darjeeling
By Air: Located at 96 km away from Darjeeling is the Bagdogra Airport, which is the closest to the place. Direct flights from major cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati are available. The airport has taxis from where a 3-hour journey will take you to Darjeeling.
By Train: New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP), which is located in Siliguri is the closest railhead. It is 62 km from the town and connects to major cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, etc.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) conducts the famous Toy Train services, which starts right at NJP. This train takes you through the beautiful vistas of Darjeeling and takes about 7 hours to complete this relaxed journey.
By Road: Darjeeling has well-connected roadways to neighbouring cities such as Siliguri, Kurseon and Kalimpong. Enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of green surrounding majestic mountains on the way. Regular buses and cabs are always available from Siliguri, Gangtok and other such neighbouring cites.