KARACHI: Old, gigantic trees have been steeped in myth and legend for thousands of years with each having a unique story and fable surrounding them. One such tree - a Banyan - graces the premises of Karachi Zoological Gardens, formerly known as Mahatma Gandhi Gardens. According to locals, the tree is more than 100 years old and despite its age it is still healthy and green.
Surviving countless seasons and storms, the magnificent tree has not only been home to many birds, insects and animals species but has also been providing shelter to human beings who visit the zoo.
Over the years, the said tree has sprouted 22 massive stems which have outgrown to mark territory for it, giving the impression that the tree has a family of several other trees surrounding it.
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Due to its expansion, the tree displays various beautiful patterns and colours on an extensive landscape which greatly add to the historical value and aesthetics of the Zoo.
Zoo authorities claim that the tree is not only the oldest one in the zoo but it is also the oldest tree in Karachi.
Providing further details regarding its exact age, Zoo officials said that the tree was planted in 1870 by the British government. At the time, there was no sign of a zoo over there and the land was reserved for horse stables owned by British officials.
Zoo officials also informed The Express Tribune that when botanists and ecologists examined the tree upon hearing its age, they were stunned to see the way in which it has shaped itself to provide a habitat for various birds and animals.
Karachi Zoo Senior Director Muhammad Mansoor Qazi said that the Banyan tree is locally known as Bargad, while its scientific name is Ficus Benghalensis.
“Apart from providing shadow, the tree also has medicinal properties and its bark and leaves are used in Ayurvedic medicines. For this reason, the tree used to be revered and worshipped by Hindus,” Qazi said. “Owing to its historic importance, the Zoo takes special care of the tree while effective measures are in place to ensure its safety and adequate supply of water,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2019.