CHENNAI: A city-based facility, labelled as India's first exotic petting zoo, has come under the scanner of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for ticketing people to handle and take close-up photos with animals.
Junglii, a pet shop-cum-indoor zoo on ECR, exhibits around 30 species of exotic animals, including hedgehogs, rabbits, snakes, and different species of birds, which are put up for sale. Ticket prices range between Rs 399 (for 30 minutes of petting) and Rs 9,999 (access to all the animals with one hour of animal handling).
Following a complaint from Antony Clement Rubin, member of TN State Wildlife Board, AWBI member secretary SK Dutta has written to the regional deputy director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the director of TN Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Department to investigate Junglii and submit an action-taken report.
The AWBI official asked authorities to check if there was any violation of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001; and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Antony Clement Rubin told The New Indian Express: "Since people are being charged to enter the facility, permission has to be taken under the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, which Junglii hasn't done. I paid Rs 3,097 for three persons and a mobile camera. I saw children handling exotic pythons. The animals looked stressed. The exotic animal trade is a huge grey area since it’s not regulated under the Wildlife (Protection) Act."
AR Vijay, owner of Junglii, said the petting zoo broke no rule. "We have all the permissions. What we charge from people is a consulting fee, not an entry fee. So, Performing Animals (Registration) Rules don’t apply in our facility. We are only trying to spread awareness about different exotic animals. If anyone wishes to buy an animal, they first need to know how to pet an animal," he said.
He also claimed that the animals in Junglii were sourced from captive-breeding facilities in India.
A senior official in animal husbandry department said a team led by the department's Kancheepuram joint-director would be inspecting the petting zoo in a day or two. Chennai Wildlife Warden E Prasanth said his team had visited Junglii but found no native species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.