The white tigers at the Anna Zooological Park, Vandalur may have naming ceremonies and special visitors, but it is elephants that have topped the zoo’s list of favourite animals to be adopted.
In September 2008, the zoo began an ‘adopt an animal programme’, which allows wildlife enthusiasts to adopt any wild species, individually or in a group. The minimum period of adoption is a day, and rates vary depending on the animal. The money given by the sponsor covers the adopted animal’s food.
For 2012-13, zoo officials said, seven animal lovers including the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) have adopted four jumbo calves. Lions were the second-most popular, with six adopters coming forward to take care of a dozen big cats during the same period.
“Human beings and elephants have a natural social bond. We think that this why individuals enjoy adopting them. Also, jumbo calves are friendly and interactive with people, which makes them popular,” a zoo official said.
At present, the zoo has only four elephant calves, after its lone 28-year-old female elephant, Ashwini, died of an illness in November 2012. The calves were mostly rescued from forests. The lion population is about 50, including 20 at the zoo’s rescue and rehabilitation centre.
“Elephants are also preferred as some consider it a sacred form of duty to feed them,” a zoo official said.
Some of the other wildlife species that were adopted include zebras, King Cobras, Nile crocodiles, pygmy hippopotamuses, turtles, chimpanzees and leopards.
A large number of birds including flamingos, blackbucks and peacocks have also been adopted.
The adoption programme, officials said, is aimed at creating awareness about wildlife and sensitising people towards animals and their care. In August 2010, the Tamil Nadu Tourism and Development Corporation adopted three white tiger cubs for a year and paid Rs. 3.78 lakh.
Later, Velammal School of Education adopted lions and birds. Corporates too have pitched in from time to time. IT major Polaris adopted a marsh crocodile and birds and paid Rs. 1 lakh for a year.
A tax exemption under section 80G of the Income Tax Act is available for money spent on adopting an animal.
“We roped in a few film personalities including actor Karthi too, who adopted white tiger cubs in 2010. But since then, the programme has had mainly corporate takers,” a zoo official said.
ANIMAL YOU CAN ADOPT RATES (PER DAY/ANIMAL)
1. Elephant Rs 520
2. Hippos Rs 373
3. Giraffe Rs 436
4. Lion Rs 525
5. Bengal Vulture Rs 45
6. Tiger Rs 525