Unique way of promoting wildlife conservation

READY FOR ADOPTION: A hippopotamus at the Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

READY FOR ADOPTION: A hippopotamus at the Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

Raghava M.

BANGALORE: Priya Bhaskar was visiting Bannerghatta Biological Park here for the third time, since she sent her blackbuck Lakshmi and her peacock Sharada to the park on New Year Day.

The two animals, which Ms. Priya Bhaskar fondly calls her "children," were in her custody for nearly a year. Having grown up in the house of this doctor-turned-lawyer, Lakshmi and Sharada naturally had developed a unique sense of attachment with Ms. Priya Bhaskar and her family members.

"It was Lakshmi who used to silently listen to me narrating the day's work, nodding her head after I finished. Sharada, as usual, used to turn away her head, and react a bit late," Ms. Priya Bhaskar recalled, as she initiated another talking session with her beloved pets, this time on the park premises. "You see the way they both react; it is similar to the way they were reacting while they were in our house in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bangalore," she told The Hindu.

Ms. Priya Bhaskar had to part ways with her "children" after she learnt from the forest authorities that the two were categorised as "endangered species" under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. She had reluctantly agreed to let them stay in the park. While doing so she also enrolled as a member of the new adoption programme started by the park authorities.

She paid an annual fee of Rs. 3,500 and adopted her blackbuck. With this adoption, Ms. Priya Bhaskar ensured that she and her family members would get a free pass to visit the park. She uses this pass regularly to visit the park to interact and watch the growth of Lakshmi and Sharada.

Incidentally, Ms. Priya Bhaskar was only the second person to adopt the scheme. The young Tamil film actor, Sadaa, had kicked off the process, adopting five spotted deer.

How it works

The park had introduced the programme to help people to adopt animals last year. The programme was initially implemented at the Chamarajendra Zoological Park of Mysore and its success had enthused the park officials.

The officials are now convinced that the programme is a great way to support wildlife conservation. By adopting an animal, the person or the institution contributes to feed and care of the animal for one full year. The contribution also helps in supporting several conservation projects of the park, including captive breeding programmes for endangered species. This unique programme of adoption, the park officials say, will make a great gift for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

There are 1,060 animals in the park, falling under the adoptable animals' list. The list includes elephants, white tigresses, leopards, spotted deer, birds and other herbivorous animals. The annual adoption fee for a hippopotamus, for instance, is fixed at Rs. 1.31 lakhs. An elephant could be adopted for Rs. 1.21 lakhs.

Here are some other animals and the cost to adopt them: lion (Rs. 82,000), zebra (Rs. 72,270), tiger (Rs. 66,000), leopard (Rs. 43,500), Himalayan black bear (Rs. 30,425), gaur (Rs. 31,000), sloth bear (Rs. 19,500), marsh crocodile (Rs. 15,330), blackbuck and spotted deer (Rs. 3,500 each), king cobra (Rs. 2,500), python (Rs. 2,860) and Indian cobra (Rs. 2,900).

The park authorities are looking out for more animal lovers to come forward and adopt the programme.

Meanwhile, Ms. Priya Bhaskar sought some changes in the adoption programme to permit the adopter to take care of harmless endangered species. "But this needs amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act, which, in its present form, does not help in developing love between man and animal," she says.

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