The Himalayan bear at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is arguably the most uncomfortable resident in the city, now that summer has announced itself. Its lustrous coat of black makes him, as his name suggests, an animal purely suited to the chill promised by higher altitudes. But this year, the summer cuisine has improved markedly for him. The newly acquired deep freezer encases fruits such as watermelon in ice and the ball of fur relishes the iced fruits, ‘like a child would enjoy an ice-cream,’ zookeepers here, all of whom relieved to see the Himalayan bear out of misery, say.
Earlier, summers saw the bear making do with just blocks of ice that were provided to him to cool down, but the animal invariably ended up licking the ice. Authorities grew concerned because the blocks were brought from a plant at Chala and its quality was questionable.
Zoo veterinarian Jacob Alexander says summer and monsoon months are times when personnel here are on high alert for signs of illness in animals. Despite the shelter and natural air-conditioning provided by the trees here, the rise in temperature gets the inhabitants more stressed. “There are animals which exhibit violent tendencies because of the heat. Moreover, the breeding season just aggravates the situation with fights for supremacy breaking out. We have to constantly monitor the scene,” said Dr. Alexander says.
The main priority of zoo personnel is to ensure that animals never run short of water. They are also bathed more often and since some animals such as the rhinoceros need to lie submerged in water most of the time, the moats around their enclosures have been cleaned and filled with water.
Another self-cooling therapy the animals indulge in is caking themselves with mud, so puddles have been created as well for this purpose. The 31 zookeepers from here are constantly on their feet watching out for the 700-plus residents of the zoo. More frequent doses of vitamin supplements have been scheduled as well.
Even though water levels in the pools at the zoo have come down following last year’s scanty monsoon, the age-old design has ensured that they never go alarmingly low. Urbanisation of the surrounding areas has caused less water to percolate into the system though. However, zoo authorities have an innovative design for the smaller pool beside the bear enclosure — one that would replenish and improve its quality to pave way for the creation of a natural ecosystem.
Here at the zoo, this small pool feeds the larger one but the level of flow has grown to become less consistent, thereby affecting the quality of both.
Even though they cannot be deemed as contaminated, zoo officials seek to improve it and facilitate the growth of fish. Consequently, more birds are expected to arrive. For this, a plan that involves turning the larger pool into an aviary is also on the anvil, they say.
“Since bats nest over the smaller pool, its droppings keep filling in it. Normally, this would favour the fish but the water level is not adjusted and water is not flushed out. So, the concentration of nitrate is too high for the fish to grow. We plan to introduce valves as well to improve the quality of water,” an official says. The Central Zoo Authority has already given permission for these.
Ammu, the four-year-old lion-tailed macaque, gave birth on Tuesday. The offspring appears healthy but the mother refuses to part with its child even for an instant, he zookeepers says. Ammu joined the zoo in 2010 when it was rescued from the Muthanga Forest Reserve.