Enter at your own risk

Dos and don’ts are listed for a reason. Breaking rules with a false sense of bravery is an invitation to trouble, like the recent incident in the Delhi zoo proved

Published - September 26, 2014 05:58 pm IST - HYDERABAD:

A white tiger in the zoo Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

A white tiger in the zoo Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

It’s been four days since the gruesome incident at the Delhi zoo where a youngster was mauled by a white tiger and there have been a number of arguments on security measures that need to be in place in a zoo, restraint that visitors need to exercise and the response time in case of an emergency. The Delhi incident is not an isolated one. In August 2009, an intoxicated visitor at the Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad, ended up with a mauled arm after trying to feed grass to a white tiger.

The Delhi incident aside, there’s no denying that following protocol would help while visiting zoos, national parks and even while crossing a forest area — in short, how we behave while entering a territory that belongs to animals.

Mahesh S. Koneru, a photography enthusiast who frequents the Nehru Zoological Park, is peeved with the behaviour of visitors. “I’ve come across boys, in the age group of 15 to 22, throwing sticks and stones at animals and creating a ruckus. Despite instructions, some photographers use flash while taking photographs, try to step inside the barricade to get a better view of the animal or draw its attention by throwing stones,” he says.

This rabble rousing, he feels, stems from a lack of understanding of animal nature. “In a zoo, animals are not in their natural habitats and are confined to small spaces. But we can’t take their sedentary nature for granted. Provoking them will cause their natural, predatory instincts to kick in,” he adds.

Every zoo and national park lists out instructions to visitors. “Animals attack only when they are provoked and feel threatened. We screen a seven-minute video with instructions. The chance of an incident similar to Delhi occurring here is less since there is more than one barrier between carnivores and visitors,” says Mallikarjuna Rao, director of the Nehru Zoological Park.

Across the country, zoos are beefing up security. The Nehru Zoological Park will be deploying people to keep vigil and step up mobile surveillance. “The response time should be reduced such that we reach the venue within minutes for help,” says Rao.

Zoos are not the only places where the man-animal behaviour is put to test. Drive through forest areas in Srisailam and one would spot people parking vehicles on the road, having an impromptu picnic, honking and littering the path, turning a blind eye to boards urging passers by to not halt in the forest area.

It’s a similar story on the Narsapur route. Diyanat Ali of Great Hyderabad Adventure Club and Outlife, an adventure travel company, recounts watching people feed monkeys on the street. “The monkeys have gotten so used to human presence that they line up on the road expecting to be fed,” he observes. Ali states that apart from curiosity towards animals that makes people provoke animals in their habitat, a part of it also stems from superstitious beliefs. “Some believe that feeding animals will wash away their sins. But throwing food into animal enclosures is uncalled for,” he says. Ali feels persistent, long-term awareness campaigns will help. “Innovative awareness campaigns have to be taken up across different channels over a period of time,” he says.

To this, Mahesh adds, “While listing dos and don’ts, it’s also important to say why. I learnt a lot of things about animals only when I began venturing out to take photographs. Perhaps detailing why certain things are out of bounds will help people understand wildlife.”

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