Indian cities are definitely not among the first destinations that come to mind when it comes to experiencing the country’s wildlife. However, Chennai is one of the few cities in India that is gifted with a rich wealth of wildlife activity. Apart from being one of the only cities to have a national park within its limits, Chennai is also home to a wide variety of destinations where visitors can truly get a taste of India’s diverse fauna. Here is a list of all the places in Chennai where you can feel as close to the jungle as you possibly can, all while staying within city limits.
Located just 15 km from Chennai, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park, or Vandalur Zoo, is the largest park of its kind in India and is also one of the city’s most-popular tourist attractions. The park attracts more than two million visitors annually and is one of the largest repositories of fauna in the state. Spread over 512 hectares, the Vandalur Zoo is home to some 1,500 species of animals, birds and reptiles in over 160 enclosures, making it Chennai’s best destination to experience wildlife. Apart from animals local to the region, such as the Indian leopard, the gaur and the Indian elephant, the park is also home to some 46 endangered species, including the white tiger.
Bordering the sprawling Guindy National Park is the Chennai Snake Park and Children’s Park, which is one of the largest ex-situ conservation sites for reptiles in the city. Carved out the earlier forest regions of the ‘Guindy Lodge’, the Snake Park was conferred with the status of a medium zoo by the Central Zoo Authority in the 90s and became Chennai’s only zoo located within city limits. It’s a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists and contains several reptile species, including the king cobra, python, vipers, and mammals such as deer, jackals and porcupines.
Home to some 2,500 animals, including most major crocodile species, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is one of Chennai’s best-known wildlife attractions. It is also an extremely important centre for the conservation of reptiles. The ‘Croc Bank’ is located along the scenic East Coast Road near Kovalam and houses over 14 of the world’s 23 major crocodilian species. It conducts crucial research in the area of herpetology as well. The trust also undertakes several conservation programmes all across the state and is involved in the rehabilitation of local animal dependent tribes, such as the snake-catching Irulas of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai is one of the few urban centres where the endangered olive ridley turtles come for nesting. However, due to the increasing urbanization of the city’s coastal areas, the nesting activity had taken a serious blow and had been declining for years, until volunteer groups and government departments took up the cause and started serious conservation efforts. During the first few months of every year, Chennai sees a large number of student volunteers and conservation activists take part in ‘Turtle Walks’ along the city’s beaches to make the region safe for the breeding of turtles. As of now, the Forest Department has already established a hatchery for olive ridley turtles near Adyar’s Broken Bridge. Volunteer groups, like the Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network and the Tree Foundation, undertake routine walks on the beaches of Neelankarai and Sholinganallur to aid in conservation efforts. Over the years, Chennai’s Turtle Walks have gone from simply being a conservation effort to becoming an integral cultural activity and a unique wildlife experience in Chennai.
The IIT Madras is one of Chennai’s largest and best-known educational institutions. However, apart from being home to some of the brightest minds in the country, the sprawling campus also houses a rich wealth of the region’s indigenous wildlife. Carved out of the Guindy National Park in the 1950s, the IIT Madras campus is one of the best examples of harmonious coexistence between men and animals and it is home to several species of deer, such as the chital and the blackbuck, along with a rich population of monkeys.
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