Alipore Zoo as vulnerable to animal theft as before

Alipore Zoo as vulnerable to animal theft as before

Alipore Zoo as vulnerable to animal theft as before

The City of Joy had recently something to pine for as it woke up to front page headlines about eight rare and tiny monkeys that were  stolen from the City’s only and the oldest zoological garden of India, the Alipore Zoo. People were, at the outset, shocked and surprised.

Why steal a monkey when you have so many things to pilfer, siphon off and of course, burgle ? A deeper probe revealed a more murky plot behind the apparently innocuous heist of eight exotic and rare breed of Brazilian specimen of Common Marmoset(Callithrix jacchus).

As things turn out, these monkeys are in all probability, headed, not for the local streets, but for the global market in unusual wildlife In 2001, a pair of the Marmoset was brought to the zoo from the Delhi Institute of Immunology for breeding. In eight years they had 14 offspring, including the stolen eight.

These are attractive, tiny creatures, about 14 to 18 cm tall and –- with a diet of spiders and other insects — relatively inexpensive to maintain. But in the international market, each carries a price of approximately Rs 2.5 lakh.

Professional gang

Police suspect a  professional gang trading in widlife illegally to be behind the theft. But one wonders how could someone pull off the burglary despite the security around the cages and the creatures’ who are well-known for biting and screaming? The gang members, authorities have concluded, must have colluded with a section of the zoo employees / guards, cut a hole in the wire mesh, drugged the animals, put them in a sack and fled.

Another alternative doing the rounds is they may have patiently reconnoitered the spot, waiting for an opportune moment when the cage may have been left briefly unattended when the guards change their shifts.

Earlier in March , there was an abortive attempt to steal some of these Marmosets, perhaps by the same gang who were  wiser and  proved successful in the ir second attempt.

Senior police officers believe that if the botched March attempt was properly investigated, it would have been easier to track the gang down.

At least,one zoo staffer familiar with the behavioural habits of Marmosets, had helped the gang in the operation, otherwise, it would have been too difficult to pull off such a job without any glitch.

However, this is not the first time that the Alipore Zoological Garden has come under the media glare.

Loopholes in security

Leave aside the botched attempt; urine of a two one-horned rhinos, turned into a target of a gang, was sold for Rs 250 a litre in 2001.

 The security guards who used to collect it in plastic bottles, had taken it to staff quaters for sale to quacks who claim the liquid contained curative powers. The trade was on for several years before the authorities cracked down on it.

The zoo had attracted a lot of flak from animal lovers, both domestic and international; besides other experts when the authorities had undertaken an experiment between lions and tigers to produce a new species called tigon and litigon. But thanks to the experiment, most of the creatures born out of the ‘wedlock’ of tigers and lions suffered from genetic disorders and died a premature death.

 It triggered an outcry from international NGOs, forcing the Centre to ban it permanently. In the 1960s, the zoo which was gifted polar bears, could merely organise an electric fan for the creatures to cool their heels when it was supposed to be living in an air-conditioned enclosure.

Last year, a well-bodied giraffe was electrocuted while it was being shifted to Nandan Kanan in Orissa from Alipore Zoo as part of an exchange programme.   
  Hence, Kolkata detectives have geared up to bust the monkey racket; apart from alerting airports around the country, they have already zeroed in on some individuals  dealing in wildlife.

They have got in touch with Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in New Delhi and the names of breeders and individual collectors of animals including marmosets from Bangalore,Chennai and Pune have surfaced during the hunt.

 ‘‘We’re determined to bust the gang and stop this monkey business,’’ a top official of the Detective Department said. ‘‘It’s just a matter of time before the gang members or the kingpin are arrested and put behind bars.’’