At least half the animal enclosures at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) are unfit for its occupants. They are either too small, improperly designed or having outlived their usefulness, according to the new master plan (2010 to 2019) authored by Millo Tago, Executive Director of the BBP, which was submitted to the Central Zoo Authority in September.
At least 20 of the 41 enclosures in the zoo need to be modified or demolished the report stated. “Many of the enclosures do not fulfil the minimum standards prescribed by the CZA,” it said.
For instance, the jackal enclosure, that houses seven animals, is just 64 sq.m. while the prescribed size (for a pair) is 1,000 sq.m. The enclosures for the macaques (Assamese, rhesus and lion-tailed) are each 64 sq.m. as against the 500 sq. m. required for a pair. The Himalayan Black Bear enclosure, at 400 sq.m. is less than half the prescribed area.
Ironically, much of the new area allotted for the zoo expansion “has been occupied by the parking place, entrance plaza and selected facilities and restaurants already constructed”, said Mr. Tago in the master plan.
Also in need of modification are the enclosures for Caiman crocodiles, gharials, giant squirrels, turtles, tortoise, and the aviary pond, none of which meets minimum standards.
There is a need for “environmental enrichment” to prevent “stereotypical behaviour” [such as pacing, rocking, swimming in circles - often seen among captive animals held in small enclosures]. Mr. Tago has said that the 38-year-old zoo has grown in a “haphazard fashion” and without a “comprehensive scientific management plan”. For instance, waste from animal enclosures, and biomedical waste go into a pond that overflows into the forest area “endangering the environment”. The zoo needs a proper quarantine facility and incineration arrangement for carcasses, which are now being burnt. As for the operation theatre, it is indicated that it is not air-conditioned and lacks a modern anaesthetic machine and infrared thermometer for measuring temperature from a distance.
However, in a rejoinder to The Hindu report of November 19, 2009, titled “273 animals die in four months at Bannerghatta Zoo”, Mr. Tago maintained that “BBP has a full-fledged veterinary healthcare unit-like zoo hospital with operation theatre equipped with X-ray machine and comprehensive range of drugs, including tranquilizing drugs and equipment”.
On the death toll, he said that “the dead animals such as star tortoises (60), red-eared slider turtles (52), Japanese quails (117), out of total death of 273… were seized animals and were sent to the Bannerghatta Biological Park in an unhealthy and sick condition…. The origin of all such seized animals remains unknown and it is difficult to know the status of their stress, starvation, suffocation, traumatised condition”.
However, it is noteworthy that star tortoises arrived at BBP in 2006, the slider turtles in 2008 and Japanese quails in 2008.