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Mongoose on the prowl at Raj Bhavan

Thursday, October 11, 2018
By Raju Vernekar

Mongoose, which were once reared to control growing population of snakes spread over sprawling 47 acre land, at Raj Bhavan, the Maharashtra Governor’s official residence in South Mumbai, have now been posing threat to peacocks trying to prey on them.

Two days back a peahen had given birth to two baby peacocks, however they were found to be missing apparently indicating that they have been preyed upon by the mongoose.

“Basically there are 18 to 20 peacocks who roam from Raj Bhavan up to Hanging Garden near Malbar Hill. They keep flying around and never remain at one place. As far as the mangoose are concerned, they have become real nuisance. They cannot be caught since they hide in the holes. Now the rodent as well as canine population is under control, Vasant Salunkhe, Controller (Properties) Raj Bhavan said. In 2015 the state government had agreed to entrust the work of peacock protection to a private party. Accordingly the work was entrusted to Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT), which in turn entrusted the work to an NGO My Vets Trust (MVT), which had promised to preserve and restore dwindling population of peacocks.

My Vets Trust was paid an amount of Rs 43 lakh for the purpose. However, except for providing some cages for the peacocks, the MVT didn’t do anything. Basically the idea of providing cages for peacock is wrong, because they hardly stay in the cages,” Salunkhe added.

“In this connection we wrote to SDTT and also held meeting twice with officials of SDTT, pointing out that the service provided by MVT is hardly of any use and as such the agreement with it be terminated. The SDTT promised us to take further action, but nothing happened. Now once again we are in the process of approaching SDTT, because we cannot do anything in this regard,” Salunkhe said. My Vets Trust (MVT) could not be reached for comments.

The over 200-year-old Raj Bhavan property, surrounded on three sides by the sea, is one of the major green spots in the city, with 6,000 trees. The Grade-I heritage precinct is rich in flora and fauna.

Basically due to the vast greenery, Raj Bhavan, has been an abode for peacocks. Maharashtra Governor, C Vidyasagar Rao, had thrown open the gates to citizens for peacock sighting in September 2015. Once Malabar Hill was a forested area with varieties of flora and fauna. There was thick jungle on the slopes of the Malabar Hill and there was a pathway from Malabar Hill to Gamdevi through groves and Babul plantations.

From Walkeshwar road, there was a winding lower road leading to the Government house, which together with the upper road was lined with well-tended trees, shrubs and creepers. This road was stated to be constructed by Lord Elphinstone 1853-1860. But due to urbanisation, the forest at Malabar hill has disappeared, except in areas like Raj Bhavan which are out of reach due to restricted entry and the Tower of Silence near Kamla Nehru Park, which is open only to Parsee community. Yet the Raj Bhavan area still has remnants of old forest.

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