Zoo exhibit construction has evolved into a specific genre of architecture in many countries. Caged pen is no longer the norm. Skilled builders are employed to recreate the natural habitat as per the animal’s need.
At the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, however, even basic construction activities seem to be continuously put on hold, effectively reducing any scope for improvement. But, being a government organisation, the responsibility rests with Public Works Department, and the Museum and Zoo department officials are losing their patience over the frustratingly slow pace of works.
A case in point is the open enclosure for tigers, built decades ago. Today, the hordes of visitors who make a beeline to the ‘Carnivora Corner’ find themselves looking into an empty pit labelled with the profile of a tiger. There are seven animals, all of whom are housed in the cages beyond, mainly owing to the flawed reconstruction activities done in 2011.
“The moat between the viewing gallery and the tiger’s space had to be levelled again as water was leaking from it. The contractor ended up concreting the side. Now, there is a ledge from where it is possible for the animal to get out. It’s a risk and so we are waiting for the PWD to rectify it,” said zoo superintendent Sadashivan Pillai.
An official who is in charge of activities in the zoo and museum, that mostly falls under the ‘Special Buildings’ category, said a balance estimate of the project had been filed and work would get under way.
The crocodile pen and hippo enclosure too need improvement.
There were a series of births of hippos this year and the suspected reason for the almost immediate death of three calves is overcrowding. Zoo veterinarian Jacob Alexander said a third pond is being developed, which would facilitate separation. The surface of the ponds had eroded, leaving it abrasive. Levelling is also needed.
“Construction in zoos is a specialised work and if one factor is faulty, the work has to be dismantled and done all over again,” he said.
The zoo doctor said animal transfers can be done after the construction is carried out properly and in a time-bound manner.
“Over the past few years, we have built a rapport between the vets of different zoos, so we can arrange for animals. But what is the point if there is no proper shelter for them,” he asked.
Tarring of the zoo roads is also pending, said Director B. Joseph. The amount for this was deposited by the Zoo Department in March. Inconvenience to Onam crowds and monsoon were cited as reasons for the delay in work. A PWD official said mixing for this could not be done in the zoo as it would disturb the animals.
Options such as transporting it to and fro from the road near the Museum police station or Manaveeyam road need to be looked into, but the work would begin within a month.
At least one part of the zoo looks brand new, courtesy the Kerala Land Development Corporation. They planned to landscape and remodel the museum area but this was objected to by activists led by poet Sugathakumari. So, tiles meant for here are being laid near the feline enclosures, levelling the walkway and reducing the scope for visitors to find loose stones to disturb the animals.