BENGALURU: Zoos and rescue centres are becoming jails for animals, point forest department officials and conservationists alike, who assert that proper guidelines must be chalked out to reduce the animals becoming permanent inmates at rescue centres.
But that alone is not the concern. Another issue that has caught the attention of forest department officials and conservationists is the discrimination towards the facilities to house carnivores. A veterinarian seeking anonymity said, all tigers rescued are sent to the Mysuru rescue centre and leopards to Bannerghatta. Hence, Bannerghatta rescue centre has over 35 leopards while Mysuru rescue centre has around 8-10 tigers.
Three leopards were rescued in as many days from various sites around Bengaluru. On October 21, an injured tigerbwas shifted from Bandipur Tiger Reserve to the Mysuru rescue centre. Due to space constraints in the Mysuru rescue centre, an injured tiger captured at Nagarhole Tiger Reserve was sent to Bannerghatta rescue centre.
"As per Central Zoo Authority and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change norms, rescued wild animals cannot be kept on display in zoos. So these animals continue to stay in captivity all their life, like prisoners. Due to lack of patients, understanding of wildlife and sheer enthusiasm, farmers and villagers nowadays are approaching forest department with leopard cubs, some just 5-10 days old. They seem to find them whining in paddy, sugarcane and other fields but fail to understand that their mother must have left these cubs to go on a hunt or to find a better secure place. Now, since these cubs are imprinted by humans, they cannot be left in the wild and such young ones won't survive. So they too continue to stay in the rescue centre. Such a case happened a week back and now the cubs are in Bannerghatta," said a forest department official.
Veterinarians point that as per protocol animals whose canines or claws are broken, severely injured, unable to hunt etc are captured and housed in rescue centres. "Around 50 per cent of animals in captivity are fit to be released. But the longer they stay in captivity before release, it makes them wilder. So the central government should frame stringent rescue and rehabilitation rules," a senior forest department veterinarian said.