The play equipment at the Children's Park, Guindy and the Vandalur zoo are awaiting the attention of officials. Many of the them are rusting and corroded, posing a serious threat to the children who use them.

The play area in both the places attracts a large number of children as well as adults during weekends and holidays. A visit to the park on Friday revealed that while the slide located close to the otter enclosure was damaged, the see-saw seats were broken as were the benches of the swings and the chains which held them. Wildlife Department sources said the replacements for the old play equipment that were installed just six months ago had been damaged again due to their poor quality.

If this is the state of the play equipment for children, the condition of the enclosures for birds and animals is even worse. “The animals are more or less exhibits here while visitors mainly come here to relax,” says P. Meenakshi, a visitor at the Children's Park Guindy.

The Australian emus with their heavy bodies are squeezed into a congested cage, while monkeys wander around in enclosures that are netted but have no shade. More than a dozen aquatic birds share a pond filled with unclean water while jackals and foxes live in cages that emit a fowl smell.

Many of these animals and birds are inactive due to the heat and for want of water and their situation reflects a need for them to be cleaned on a daily basis “We have instructions to feed them food, cleaning is done occasionally by other people,” says an animal keeper. Park officials claim the park has around sixteen exotic species of wildlife. “A proper study and execution of measures on the living requirements of these species is needed before you keep them in confinement,” said Ajmal Ahmed, a zoologist visiting the park.

The children's play area at Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, also suffers from problems that put children at risk. The play area that has swings, slides, parallel bars and other equipment is a huge hit among children. However, some of the swings are damaged and are virtually rendered unusable. There are rocks near the landing point of the slide and there is the risk of children getting hurt when they slide down. The parallel bars are rusted and have sharp edges.

Zoo officials said they attended to such damage regularly and that repairs were conducted or alternative equipment installed immediately.

However, they pointed out that the problem arose from adults using the equipment that is meant solely for children. Even as prominent signboards indicated that the equipment should be used only by children below 10 years of age, elders, including college students, office-goers and even parents used the equipment that gives way unable to handle the weight, complained the zoo officials.

(With inputs from P. Oppili, K. Manikandan and Vasudha Venugopal)

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