VISAKHAPATNAM: If the experts are to be believed, the attack of a white tiger on a visitor at the Delhi Zoo Tuesday occurred due to absence of proper animal keepers (caretakers) and lack of facilities like stand-off barriers. And going by the poor conditions at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Visakhapatnam, visitors feel that it poses no less danger.
The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) is now the biggest zoo in the truncated Andhra Pradesh and is considered a major tourist spot in Visakhapatnam with 67 enclosures. Severe shortage of animal keepers, security guards and lack of safety norms near the animal enclosures, poses a serious threat to visitors.
A walk in the zoo would reveal that the stand-off barrier (iron railing) at the animal enclosure is not up to the mark. On Wednesday, a day after the Delhi incident, many visitors were found climbing the iron railing increasing the possibility of these ‘enthusiasts’ falling into the moat.
Despite the tragic incident at Delhi zoo, several college students were seen leaning over the barricades to take selfies on their mobiles Wednesday.
S Rajendra patnaik, a tourist from Berhampur in Odisha, said that the barrier is too short and expressed the possibility of children falling into the moat.
“Actually, the iron railing is broken in some areas and we cannot be too sure if the Delhi-like incident might occur again. Over enthusiastic people try to be adventurous and end up in critical situations. They must follow the safety rules to stay safe,” he added. Arranging barriers of at least 3 feet height can be some part of solution, he suggested.
Lack of sufficient animal keepers at the city zoo indicates the pathetic situation. There are as many as around 65 animal enclosures, for which only 13 skilled animal keepers have been appointed. Due to lack of adequate manpower, the zoo authorities are using about 14 regular employees at the zoo as assistants for the available animal keepers.
According to some wildlife activists in the city, an animal keeper has to take care of three to four animals. If an unfortunate incident, like the one at the Delhi zoo occurs, it would be difficult for the animal keeper to rush to the next enclosure at short notice. On the other hand, the zoo has just 23 security guards working in three shifts. Lack of security guards at the enclosures and lack of awareness among people is putting the lives of wild animal lovers in danger.
L Yaswanth, a BTech student and an animal lover who visits the zoo at least twice a week, said that he never saw enough security guards monitoring at the enclosures where tourists and school children climb on the barriers/railings, which is a serious threat. He also added that many students cross the barriers and click pictures in utter disregard for their lives.
Speaking to Express, IGZP curator G Ramalingam admitted that about 30 to 35 vacant posts of animal keepers are to be filled at the zoo. “We have already made an appeal to the government in this regard. However, people also should be aware of the danger posed by their adventures,” he said.
Some students and visitors are seen throwing things at the animals and trying to taunt them into action. Officials are planning to conduct awareness programmes on the safety norms to be followed at the zoo, he informed.