Zoos across the world were established to showcase the wild wealth of the country. People could visit the
zoos and see all the wild animals in close proximity. In our country we have about 163 recognized ones in nearly all the states. The Central Zoo Authority or CZA is the body, which keeps a check on all the zoos existing in the states whether managed by state
or private players. The Marble Palace zoo in Calcutta city established in 1854 is the oldest existing one. The zoos also play a vital part In conserving some of the endangered species.
But sadly the state of many zoos is deplorable. A recent death of a guest chimpanzee from Germany in the Delhi zoo due to high temperature brought forth the plight
of animals. The chimp was healthy and had been brought for breeding. But the vast difference in temperature and lack of proper measures resulted in death. The zoos in India are designed in old-fashioned way where it was necessary that visitors see animals.
To do this small-caged enclosures were designed. But these enclosures didn’t have any space for large as well as small animals to have a minimum space for movement. There are no aviaries for birds so as to have a full flight. The animals are usually weak,
unhealthy due to meager supply of food. The dark and dingy enclosures make them susceptible to diseases. The moats are either dry or filled with dirt and garbage. There is no water to drink especially in hot summer months.
Even if they survive al this, the visitors are the worst. They find their helplessness amusing. To draw attention towards them they throw plastic bags,
eatables and stones. There is little or no respect towards these confined beasts. All these acts along with suffering at the hands of their caretakers are physically and psycologically damaging. This is the main cause for failure of zoos in conserving the
But the zoo authorities are waking up perhaps due to media reports and NGO’s who keep a watch on them. They are now trying to enhance green
cover for extra cooling. The old design by German architect Karl Hegienbeck needs major modification. There should be cross ventilation for one. The San Diego Zoo in the US is famous for providing the most natural setting for animals and birds. The breeding
programme too is commendable. The caretakers too need to be dedicated to their jobs. In Germany when a polar bear was abandoned by its mother, it was hand raised by the zookeeper. Although there were protests by many animal activists who wanted it to be out
down than raised by humans. Death threats were issued to the cub. But the zoo authorities heightened the security to save it. Now the cub is doing well and has the world going “knuts” over him (“Knuts” is the name given to it).
Corporate sponsorship like the one for Berlin Zoo, which is operated by a company can pump in much needed funds for restructuring and maintenance.
More staff and good working conditions for the caretakers. An independent body or an NGO can keep a check. But more importantly empathy by the visitors who should realize that they share this earth and not own it.
Read fascinating animal tales from a retired zoo-keeper from India by clicking here
( Photograph of tiger with a bottle thrown by visitors into its enclosure in the Delhi Zoo. This telling photo by Piyal Bhattacharjee appeared in the Times of India dated 22
Photograph of staffer refilling water containers at Delhi Zoo appeared in the Indian Express dated April, 2007)