Mankind may be the most evolved species, but many animals housed in the zoos across the state will beg to differ. For them, the brush with humans has mostly been an unpleasant one.
Sample this: a two-year-old bear dies after consuming plastic bag, a crocodile loses an eye on being stoned, primates and big cats too get stoned, and porcupines are often chased for their spikes. These are some instances of ‘human benevolence’ towards animals in captivity.
However, thanks to some proactive zoo officials in the state, such vandalism will now invite hefty fines and awareness drives are on at various zoos against such behaviour.
HJ Bhandary director of Dr Shivarama Karanth Biological Park in Pilikula said, “Zoo vandalism has become a big headache for authorities. There is something in the air here that makes visitors feel free to do things they ought not to do.
In one case of vandalism, visitors at Pilikula park threw stones at a crocodile and the poor reptile nearly lost one of its eyes. In another case, visitors threw waste food packed in polythene bags near a bear, which ate the food along with the bag and died after few weeks. All these are terrible things, but visitors do it without knowing the implications.”
Bellary Zoo executive director SA Hubert said, “It is not just vandalism that is was worrisome, but also irresponsible behavior of the visitors. A few weeks back at Bellary Zoo, a boy lost his hands while trying to feed candy to a tiger by extending it through the chain mail mesh. I do not blame the child, but the elders who accompanied him were engrossed in a phone conversation when this terrible thing happened. There are number of other cases of vandalism and irresponsible behaviour by visitors, which we are trying to curb by imposing fines and putting up educational placards all across the zoo.”
The Chamarajendra Zoological Park at Mysore too had its share of vandalism with visitors throwing stones at the primates and big cats, and throwing peanuts and other harmful popular snacks at the animals.
“We run a strict diet schedule for the animals. No sugar, no salt, no masala and several other ingredients that we use in our daily diets. They need different food. But by feeding them with trash food, visitors expose them to health risks. We have put up several educational placards all over the zoo and fines for various acts of vandalism has become a regular feature,” member secretary of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) RS Suresh said.
Mysore, Bannerghatta and Tavarekoppa (in Shimoga) zoos belong to the ZAK and Pilikula biological park (managed by a society) have already made their premises plastic free, but visitors use empty pet bottles to carry out vandalism.
“They throw bottles at the animals even when they are taking rest. When I asked one of them why he was being cruel to the animal, he said he wanted to take pictures of the animal, while on the move on his mobile phone. We have sanitised the Mysore zoo against availability of stones by lining the ground with interlocking pavements,” said Nanjundaswamy, ZAK president.
As a measure to keep the zoo free of pet bottles, every bottle that a visitor carries to the zoo will be marked and they will have to deposit Rs10 against each bottle. They can return the bottle and collect the deposit before he leaves the premises.
The Mysore zoo has collected Rs55,000 in one year towards the penalty paid by the visitors for acts of vandalism at Rs100 per act.