Seven tigers lounge in their enclosures at the city zoo, oblivious to the fact that July 29 is celebrated in honour of this feline species and calls for awareness for their conservation in the wild.
The zoo here has treasured tigers during much of its history as even staid administrative reports written decades ago by previous Zoo directors and superintendents betray a sense of pride that they are taking care of this endangered species.
“The acquisition of the two tigers is of special importance to the Zoo because the species remained unrepresented here for several years now, although tigers are quite numerous in the Travancore forests and they form the most important species of the local fauna,” goes a mention in the ‘Museum and Public Gardens’ administrative report of the year 1931. The report talks about the how the animal was acquired, expressing gratitude towards the then Conservator of Forests Dhanukoti Pillai and Divisional Forest Officer Velayudhan Nair for their ‘untiring personal efforts’.
The report that year concludes that the zoo section of the public gardens celebrated a prosperous year with, “the tiger no more the conspicuous desideratum that it was.” Of the two tigers in possession that year, one was of the local variety and the other Malayan, the report says.
In addition, another surprise came to the zoo staff that year when a Land Revenue Commissioner then, S.C.H. Robinson offered, ‘a handsome present’, in the form of a Bengal Tiger cub. “The cub is being carefully reared by the Superintendent in his quarters,” the report says.
Aside from these anecdotes, the care devoted to an animal even in the confines of a zoo is apparent through later developments such as when an open enclosure was built for the tigers here during the 1960s. It was a medicinal garden once upon a time, but the push towards creating a naturalistic setting for them was initiated after the then director Parameshwaran Nair had seen something similar at the Mysore Zoo.
Presently there are seven tigers, six of them – Rahul, Manikandan, Manu, Kiran, Karthika and Ponni – were born here at the zoo to the matriarch of the family, Karishma.
The open enclosure mentioned in the reports has been closed for the past two years pending renovation of the moat here by the Public Works Department.