Lonely at the zoo

THEY PACE up and down, in the wire-mesh house, waiting for the arrival of a mate. Their existence is a lonely and boring one as they suffer the pangs of loneliness.

Meet the solitary animals, leading a monotonous life in the Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP), Vandalur.

About half-a-dozen animals in the zoo are leading a lonely life without a mate which includes a bison, wolf, European brown bear, wild boar, wild ass.

For the zoo managers, one of the biggest challenges is to see that every animal housed inside get a partner and ensure that no animal is left in the lurch, says Mr. N. Krishnakumar, Director, AAZP. This goal has to be achieved only through animal exchange programmes, he says.

Animals living in herds, in large community, in pairs and solitary ones have been housed as per their living patterns in the wild. But sometimes they are forced to wait for long due to the delay in the animal exchange programme process. The situation gets worse in the case of exotic species, he adds.

As Indian zoos do not capture animals from the wild to live as a mate for the solitary animals in captivity, animal exchange programmes are the only way to solve the problem, says another wildlife official.

The loneliness of animals leads to various psychological and physiological disorders. A few years ago, a male chimpanzee which was leading a solitary life inside the zoo developed abnormal behaviour. When he was joined by a female chimpanzee from Alipore Zoo, Kolkata, his behaviour became more ``genteel''.

It has been observed that loneliness invariably lead to hormonal imbalance among animals, consequent to severe stress, says Mr. A. Manimozhi, zoo biologist.

At present, the zoo authorities have been exploring all the possibilities to find suitable partners to the solitary animals immediately. But due to various constraints, the exchange programme is not taking place at a pace desired by zoo managers.

While foreign countries have suitable vehicles for transportation of animals, good roads and other infrastructure facilities to handle the requirement, such efforts are less developed in the country, due to which the exchange programme has not taken off, officials add.

By P. Oppili