The slanting rays of the morning sun could light up two eyes inside one of the ten crates loaded on a truck parked at the entrance to the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo. It conveyed some of the weariness of a seven-day ‘almost cross-country’ trip from New Delhi, cramped inside a crate, and the excitement of being in an unfamiliar place.
The nilgai had reached here by Thursday midnight along with nine other companions, four more nilgais, three barking deer, and two albino blackbucks. From another truck parked nearby, the peculiar calls of five painted stork, five white ibis, and two pairs of red jungle fowl, came out as some kind of garbled speech.
The workers at the zoo were running around giving finishing touches to the enclosures for the new residents. When the extendable arm of the crane equipment, employed to lift the crates on to the enclosures, latched on to the nilgai’s crate and lifted up in the air, the animal inside stirred a bit.
As the crate was set down gently on the ground at the new enclosure, it let out a muted roar. Two helpers got on top of the crate to open the doors. The nilgai, initially circumspect to step outside, did so after one of the workers tapped the back of the crate. An hour later, the nilgai was sauntering across the enclosure, with four of his companions. One of them, the biggest among the set, had a small injury on the side, owing to the constant brushing against the narrow crate.
The barking deer were more excited though, running frenetically over all the available space as soon as they were let out. A male and female quickly formed a bond. The exotic couple of albino blackbucks were the last to be let out. Since the trucks were unable to traverse the narrow pathway which led to their space, the crates were wheeled for some distance to let them in. The male blackbuck jumped as soon as the crate was open and ended up hitting the antler on top. It seemed to be finding a way to get out, going by the time it spent at the edge of the enclosure. He settled down when the female blackbuck was also released into the same space.