The BMC wrote to Shivaji Park police on Tuesday, saying the zoo operates without adequate barricading. “It has various kinds of crocodiles, snakes, pythons and birds. The security measures in place are inadequate and therefore the possibility of reptiles coming from there to the swimming pool premises cannot be negated,” stated the letter, demanding action. “As the issue concerns the lives of swimming pool members, kindly consider it urgently.”
Mumbai range forest officer (RFO) Rakesh Bhoir said the zoo was raided earlier this year based on complaints and star tortoises — a protected species — were seized. “The zoo owner has taken permissions from the civic body to operate. If there are any further complaints, we can inquire,” said Bhoir. Honorary wildlife warden Pawan Sharma said that at the time of the raid, the zoo did not have any certificate from the central zoo authority (CZA). “Whether the private zoo is legal or illegal falls in a grey area. Matters need to be jointly investigated by the BMC and the forest department,” Sharma said. “My concern is that even if the zoo has registered all its exotic species with the forest department, the question is how did it procure them? Were they smuggled into India? Or was some breeder the source?”
On Tuesday’s incident, Sharma said it was possible that the crocodile could have reached the pool through a gutter or a drain, or it could be that “some tout illegally released it into the pool”. “Recently, a viral video showed an exotic python in Byculla. This means someone has been illegally keeping or breeding exotic pythons in the city. We will have to investigate.”
A BMC official said the zoo plot was given to the owner of the facility in 1986 by the civic estate department, but the zoo started last year. “We have not been able to get the land back. The BMC even moved court on the matter,” he said.
The zoo’s founder, Nandakumar Moghe, said someone was trying to defame them to grab land. “I am not doing anything illegal. My aim is to help future generations learn about various species.” Its director, Yuvraj Moghe, said, “We don’t have any crocodile species. Our zoo is legal as we have all the required permissions from the CZA and other authorities. Just last month, on August 15, we tipped off the forest department that a man from Crawford Market will arrive here with a small crocodile. Forest officials seized the croc at the time. So, I feel that out of vendetta, someone released a baby croc in the swimming pool.”