Location: 20 km from Bhubaneshwar
Nandan Kanan means '"garden of pleasure", and this combination of zoo, botanical garden and sanctuary 20 km from Bhubaneswar, in the splendid environs of the Chandaka Forest, along the rippling waters of the Kanjia lake, fits the description. The zoo has created history in many ways. In 1967, a wild female tiger approached Nandan Kanan, and scaling a high fence, she crept around until she found the tiger enclosure. She then climbed up a concrete wall, and leapt down into the enclosure, thus perhaps becoming the only wild animal in existence who has ever opted to join in a zoo. In commenting on this rare occasion, the National Geographic magazine pointed out that Orissa must be the only place in the world with enough sophistication to have a modern, well designed zoo, and enough tigers to stock it by voluntary membership. Nandan Kanan also has the distinction of the first captive-breeding center for gharial crocodiles, a task facilitated by the gift of an adult male by the Frankfurt Zoo. The zoo has also given a new lease of life to one of the rarest creatures of the world - the white tiger, with important research and concerted efforts on to breed them in the natural environs of Nandan Kanan.
This regal animal first came to Nandan Kanan in 1980 when the first litter of white tigers were born to Deepak and Ganga, two normal tawny tigers. Subsequent litters of white tigers have been distributed to Zoo's both in India as well as abroad. Currently Nandan Kanan has one of the largest collections in the world with over 34 white tigers. In addition to the white tigers, endangered species such as the Asiatic Lion, three Indian crocodilians, sanghai, lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Indian pangolin, mouse deer and countless birds, reptiles, and fish have been breeding successfully here. There is also a successful Black Panther breeding programme. In all, over 67 kinds of mammals, 18 varieties of reptiles and 81 species of birds co-exist in the deeply forested boundaries of Nandan Kanan.
The 34 aquaria, which are home to a large variety of freshwater fish, and the Reptile park, home to numerous species of crocodiles, lizards, turtles and snakes, which is guarded by the image of a life sized Tyrannosaurus Rex, are perpetual crowd-pullers. Safaris for viewing the white tigers and lions in the natural habitat in specially designed protected buses are added attractions. The rope-way connecting the Zoo with the Botanical Gardens over the lake, the boating facilities, the Lion Safari ( a wide stretch of open ground infested with Lions where the visitors get to see them in their natural habitat) and the toy train for children have added new feathers to Nandan Kanan's cap, making it a hot family favourite. Nandan Kanan, with its Zoo, the beautiful Botanical Gardens, the lake, nature trails and facilities for amusement, is a definite must for all visitors to Orissa.