Fauna and flora of this were abundant until about a century ago and the man felt little necessity to artificial collection of wild animals and plants. There was harmonious equilibrium between natural vegetation and wildlife. Keeping of some animals in captivity dates back to Mughal era or even before when private individuals and sportsmen maintained some species like Cheetah and some birds of prey for their assistance in hunting or as a symbol of social status. The regular zoo movement in India, began in the year 1855 when the first zoo was set up in Chennai.
In the zoological parks animals enjoy protection, fine sun-shine, fresh air and above all ample open space to play about. They have now become repertories of threatened wildlife and a store house of the knowledge on animals behaviour, their breeding habits, etc.
Up to the middle of 20thcentury, zoo animals were exhibited in cages. Today the tendency is to provide the animals in captivity with something akin to their natural habitat. Gone are the days when wild animals lived in cages like convicts in prison. Now the wild animals in zoo rather resemble estate owners. Far from desiring to escape and regain freedom, they tend to defend the space they inhabit and to keep it safe from intrusion. Zoological park is the Place where they are assured of food, medical care and treatment and where they also feel safe from their natural enemies.
In early stages, the zoological parks, were considered as places of relaxation and enjoyment for public. Of late, however, there has been a change in the objective and purposefulness of these parks. The establishment of zoological parks helps in providing knowledge about different native and exotic wild mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and flora to the public in general and school children in particular. Since the key to wildlife conservation lies in the education of masses and involvement of voluntary organizations, zoological parks are very useful in spreading knowledge on the wildlife wealth of the country. These are also important centers for organizing seminars, training and research on the management of wildlife species and for study of their social behaviour, breeding and ecological aspects.
Zoological parks all over the world have been involved in the rescue of many species threatened with extinction. Some individuals of certain species, which have vanished from their natural homes are still surviving in the parks. Our country has made good progress in the rehabilitation of some endangered species. The crocodile Rehabilitation Project being run by the FAO on the request of Government of India has done commendable work to rehabilitate crocodiles. Similarly the Himalayan Musk deer at Kufri and extraction of musk has also been achieved. For Brow-Antlered Deer efforts are being to establish a second sanctuary for releasing deer bred in captivity into the wild. Attempts have also been made for preserving other species like Blackbuk, Sambar and Spotted Deer. Similar projects for pheasants and partridges are under way. Conservation efforts have been made over the world by breeding mammals and birds in parks and releasing them in free state as in case of the Great Indian Bustard, Houbara, Bustard, Hawaiian Goose, European Bison, etc. Thus zoological parks have eventually succeeded in savings quite a few species and rehabilitating a few in the wild which otherwise would have been extinct by now. The zoological parks therefore, are playing an important role in wildlife conservation.