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Cooling off at the zoo

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Summer blues A white tiger enjoying a cool splash at its enclosure
Summer blues A white tiger enjoying a cool splash at its enclosure

The inmates of the zoo are finding their own ways of beating the heat

An unusual silence transcends across the place. The distant noise of water sprinklers and subdued growls breaks the stillness. Occasional calls are buried under a hushed murmur amidst the rustle of dry leaves. As the sun beats down mercilessly, it’s time for a siesta for the felines. In silent groups, they move into the shades of the trees for a snooze. The avian crowd sits muted on the bars, while the tiger cool themselves in the pool. The lazy hippo moves around in the cool water of the pond, enjoying every moment of it. He lifts his heads with dog-like obedience when the keeper calls out for him.

This is the scene at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park which otherwise brims with activity and the chirpy calls of its inmates. Summer’s here with its blistering heat and it’s time to give the special care to animals and pets. The inmates of the zoo park are finding their own ways of beating the heat. As the mercury shooting up steadily, zoo authorities have geared up sparing no effort to create cool zones for the animals and birds to give full protection from the burning heat.

For the avian friends, the cages are covered with palm leaf mats, which screen the sunrays and reduce the heat considerably. Special khus-khus mats have been provided to the exotic African parrots to keep them protected from the harsh heat. According to the zoo officials, when the atmospheric temperature goes up, the metabolic rate of the animals goes down. Therefore, the first sign that the animals have been gripped by the summer heat is a reduced appetite. “We are giving plenty of liquids to the animals. Electrolytes and glucose are added in water. Special care has to be provided to the old animals in the zoo during the hot season. We give them milk with B-complex syrup to help them stay fit,” says the zoo curator Rahul Pandey. One of the primary focus of activities these days at the zoo is providing the animals with a water body, however small.

The hippos and the tigers of the zoo, along with the elephant, are a lucky lot in this respect as they already have very good water pools to loll about in. The guards say the hippos who even otherwise spend most of the days in the water, are very rarely coming out of the pool these days. The elephants are the most excited ones as they can cool themselves with a splash of water or just play some tricks with the guard. Heat can sap the animals so much that the generally active monkeys abstain from their usual antics to cool their heels literally.

The summer is dreaded period for the old inmates of the zoo. They seem sad and disturbed as they struggle through yet another summer. The king of the zoo, Arjun, appears to be restless. His restrained roars can be heard as you approach his enclosure. They simply hate summer for this is the time when they have to fight for their freedom. Being the oldest lion bred in captivity, this 25-year-old feline, has to be given extra care considering his age and fragile physical state. Sharing his agony is the other aged lot of the zoo – the lone puma, and two tigers. Cool roof paints have been provided to their night crawls. And for the reptiles and bears, water sprinklers are working round the clock to keep them wet and cool.

NIVEDITA GANGULY

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