The Five Starred Cat

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

During my stint at the Zoo it was very usual for ordinary people approaching the office and they in turn asking me for help – to help in catching animals ranging from monkeys (usual) to snakes and monitor lizards (unusual) – animals who instead of their usual homes had raided human habitation.

THIS however, was one of the most unusual requests--- one from a five star hotel the Hyatt Regency, asking if I could catch a wild cat, from its maze of ducts giving cool air to rooms and other facilities. I told the microbiologist civet, monitor lizard, big mole or even an ordinary cat as most of the time some one seeing a small animal in the cavernous depths of a duct would be mistakenly calling it a cat. However I went down to the hotel and on questioning the staff who saw the animal came to the conclusion that it was indeed an ordinary feral cat! The animal had got inside the duct through an unbarred opening and had been located in a section ending in one of the most luxurious suites of the hotel. Well there was not much to do but to cut a hole into the false ceiling making only the minimum noise.

Meanwhile I sank into one of the de-luxe couches and was really taking in all the luxury of the suite. It even had a roof garden on the balcony where one could have a nice stroll to get some fresh air and help in forgetting the business worries of the high and mighty tycoons who may have stayed in this really really luxurious room

The cutting of the false ceiling was soon over and I had to come down to mother earth and try and get a shot in to the cat cowering in the duct! With the help of the fading light of a torch---one could not use a powerful torch or this would have scared the cat away---I perched myself on top a table and a couple of stools so as to get very faint view of the cat. Breathing a small prayer I blew hard into the mouth piece of the blow pipe and was rewarded with a big thud that of a jumping cat injected by a needle and hitting the roof of the duct. It was all quiet after that. I had given a dose that was above the normal one, required to down a feral cat and the animal had become unconscious almost immediately!

The hotel staff after being duly reassured that they would not be torn to pieces by a wild animal clambered in and found a big feral cat completely unconscious and gingerly brought her down to the thickly carpeted floor of the suite. Soon the cat was in the bag , literally and figuratively heading its way in a van for the ridge which was a favourite place for depositing all my unconscious victims.

I am sure the cat would have had a shock to find itself so suddenly in wilderness, after being in the confines of a dark cool duct with all five star comforts.

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