The Forest Department has temporarily put on hold the request made by the authorities of Bannerghatta Zoo to release a dozen elephants back to the forests because of huge cost of feeding them.
Recently, the zoo authorities wrote to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) to shift around 12 rescued elephants which are presently housed in the zoo’s elephant rescue centre.
Sources told Express that the Forest Department had not kept its promise to release more money towards feeding those pachyderms and the additional burden has fallen on the zoo. The zoo required just three to four elephants for display purposes, but it has 15 elephants. Maintaining them has become a big problem.
Sources said despite shortage of staff, the zoo has managed to put 30 people to look after the 15 elephants. Each jumbo is taken care of by two people — a mahout and a kavadi — and they need to stay with them day and night to prevent them from mingling with visiting wild elephants from nearby forests. Feeding of each elephant costs around `1.25 lakh-1.5 lakh per month and the zoo was not in a position to spend that much. “We can manage if the Forest Department gives us additional funds,” sources said.
Two days ago, an elephant calf, which separated from its herd near Kanakpura, was brought to the zoo. “If the Forest Department goes on adding elephants where is the money to feed them. Even the request to provide the services of veterinary doctor has not been fulfilled,” sources alleged.
When contacted, PCCF (wildlife) Vinay Luthra said the Central Zoo Authority has set guidelines within which all the zoos have to function. “Shifting of elephants from one zoo to another or from zoo to forests require the CZA’s permission. Till they get the permission, the elephants are the property of the zoo and they will stay there. I am not aware of the number of elephants which were housed at Bannerghatta Zoo. Once the permission comes, we will take steps to shift them.”
Luthra said it has been the practice to house rescued jumbos in nearby elephant camps. Since all the five elephant camps are full, some of them have been kept in the Zoo. “I am optimistic of finding an early solution to this problem,” he said.