Life is lonely for these zoo animals

Life is lonely for these zoo animals

Animal exchange programme

Life is lonely for these zoo animals

The century-old-Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore, houses many species living a life of solitary confinement. They have ended up as mere showpieces placed inside enclosures for the sole purpose of entertaining thousands of tourists who flock the zoo daily.

Stringent rules laid down by the Government of India and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) regarding procurement of animals on an exchange basis, have made the animals’ lives miserable.

The zoo authorities seem helpless about the issue too, because the permission of the central government and the CZA is a must to bring any species from international zoos to Indian zoos.

Such a situation did not prevail even two to three decades ago when zoos across the world freely exchanged animals and birds without any problems. But the rules were made more stringent following complaints of misuse by some zoo authorities. 

But, this has affected genuine zoos such as the Mysore zoo that enjoys a very good reputation at the international level. In the current situation, it will take not less than two to three years to get any exotic animal from an international zoo, thanks to elaborate procedures. In the Mysore zoo too, there are some species that are in need of partners for many years now. A male gorilla Bobo was brought from a German zoo in 1996-97 to partner Sumathi, a female gorilla, which was leading a solitary life. By the time Bobo arrived in Mysore,  Sumathi was not interested in a partner.

The breeding programme of the zoo authorities fell flat after Sumathi died. Since then, Bobo has been looking for a companion. If one goes by the restrictions imposed by the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), then, such programmes will hardly take off.

The nod of the EEP is a must when it comes to sourcing any animal from any zoo in European countries. In the absence of a companion, Bobo is leading a tough life. “Most of the times he sleeps in the enclosure and rarely comes out. He sits in a corner and takes whatever is given to him,” says an officer of Mysore zoo, on the condition of anonymity.

Gorillas are typically hyper-active and are among the best of entertainers. But, Bobo is an exception. The gorilla has spent a solitary life for almost 14 years. The government and CZA are yet to make efforts to break his solitary confinement at least now.

Like Bobo, there are other animals such as the white rhino, black rhino, African elephant, leopard cat and flamingoes that are in need of company. The Mysore zoo brought Timbo and Zambi,  an African elephant couple in the 70s. Zambi died last year. The male elephant Timbo often goes on a rampage and attacks his own cub. “The task of finding a companion for this elephant is among the biggest challenges for the zoo authorities.  No zoo is ready to spare a female African elephant in spite of the zoo offering a good sum.”

“If we start the procedure now it will take at least two-three years to reach the ministry concerned which has powers either to reject or accept the proposal. In case of any change in the government, the procedure needs to be started afresh.”

“While there is no doubt that the Mysore zoo has a great reputation among international zoos, nothing works without constant pressure from the government.”

“The zoo has a record of breeding more than 150 species in the last 20-25 years. More importantly it is one of the oldest zoos in the world,” noted the officer.

Some zoos are ready to spare “exotic” species in exchange for Indian elephants. But a few non-governmental organisations and animal activists are against this exchange. Now most zoos in Germany have almost all the animals that Indian zoos have and a time may come when the authorities of Indian zoos will have to approach the former for species.


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