A zoo or a botanical garden is an artificial replica of the nature created by man. Through this responsible creation he is paying due respect to the spectacular and mysterious nature. Several countries are attentive in creation of zoo and botanical garden that helps in maintaining the sustainability of nature and wild life. Different states in India have botanical gardens and zoo and Assam is a state rich in biodiversity that has the largest zoo and botanical garden in the north east region of India. This situates in the Hengrabari Reserved forest in the zoo road in Guwahati that has the extent of 432 acre or 175 hectare.
The concept of transformation of this forest in to a zoo and botanical garden in the natural habitat originated in Guwahati during the 64th session of Indian National Congress in the year 1957. The attraction of the session was the animals and birds exhibited by the organizing committee. The participants became very close to these animals and birds particularly to a female leopard cub. They called her spotty and after the session the shifting of these animals became a concern for the participants. The importance and necessity of a zoo where the animals can be inhabited in the natural habitat resulted in the making of zoo. The animals were housed in Japorigong in the Hengrabari Reserve. At the time of establishing zoo in 1957, in this reserve, it had an extent of 130 hectare. The suitability of this forest for different species of animals and birds made the Government authorities to open the Zoo for public in the year 1958. At the initial stage the Zoo hold 42 species of animals and 31 species of birds. Currently there are 895 numbers of animals and 113 species. In 1959, special forest division as Assam State Zoo division was created and zoo was included under this forest division. Large number of indigenous species is the major attraction of the Zoo. The natural habitat is preserved here with utmost attention that it includes one horned Indian Rhinoceros, golden langur, clouded leopard, hoolock gibbon, serow, slow loris, jungle cat, binturong, brow antlered deer, elephants, chital or spotted dear and male Indian peafowl.
The rich and rare wild life makes this one of the world’s renowned zoo. Other than the indigenous animals different species of animals and birds from different countries abroad are also brought here. In exchange several species of animals were shifted to other countries. Foreign breeds of animals found here are African Chimpanzees, white rhinos, black rhinos, zebras, ostriches and giraffes, kangaroos from Australia and Puma, Jaguar and Llama from South America. Indian One Horned Rhinoceros is a rare species that had been sent to other countries in large numbers from here. In the year 2005, animal adoption plan was launched in this Zoo. Animal lovers can provide or sponsor the expenses of the animal they choose under this scheme.
The natural environment is also a haven of valuable and rare species of herbs, trees, and medicinal plants. The flora is a treasure of study material to researchers, nature lovers and students. The government in the year 1982 added a botanical garden and museum that is a major attraction of Guwahati zoo till date and there after it is known as Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden. Guwahati botanical garden is in the list of major botanical gardens in the world cited as the “Indian portion”.
The expansion of the Zoo and botanical area is done from time to time, and the last expansion was done in the year 2002 were 45 hectare of Hengrabari Forest was added. Today this is a major tourist spot in Assam administered by Government of Assam in taking utmost care in maintaining the natural habitat. Visitors are not allowed to commit any activity that disturb or cause harm to the wild life. The Zoo timings are 7.00am to 4.00pm during summer and 8.00am to 4.00 pm during winter. The entry fee is Rs 10 per person and Rs 20 per person along with camera.