‘Night Safari’ plan revived at Vandalur, activists raise concerns

May 23, 2021 12:00 am | Updated 03:50 am IST - CHENNAI

While disruption to animal behaviour has been cited as a major issue, many question if the investment is worth it amidst the pandemic

Health problem:According to activists, disturbing the animals at night could increase their stress levels.B. VELANKANNI RAJ

Health problem:According to activists, disturbing the animals at night could increase their stress levels.B. VELANKANNI RAJ

The ‘Night Safari’ at Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur is being revived, and with it comes the debate on whether it is good or bad for the animals in captivity. Wildlife activists feel the government should focus on overall ecological development rather than spending on such tourism programmes.

While the original proposal was mooted in the last DMK regime around 2007, the AIADMK government, led by Edappadi K. Palaniswami, revived the plan after 10 years and now the forest top brass is pushing for its implementation with the new DMK government, in public-private partnership (PPP) mode, much to the disquiet of activists here.

According to sources in Panagal Maligai, the headquarters of the Forest Department, the AIADMK government had approved it and it was being hurriedly pushed through for private investment.

According to the proposal, a ‘Safari World’ on 64 hectares and ‘Night Safari’ on 124 hectares would be developed, among other things. The Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Fund Management Corporation Limited had invited international competitive bidding proposals.

While it is being touted as the first of its kind in the country, activists say it could change the behavioural pattern of animals. “Disturbing the animals at night will increase their stress levels,” said an activist, unwilling to be named. “Even humans working in night shifts face problems. People visiting in vehicles with headlights on or with torches will definitely be harmful to the animals,” he added. Preston Ahimaz, naturalist and consultant, said the animals would be slightly traumatised but would adapt as they were not free ranging and were used to artificial conditions. “But the question is if this investment is worth it. This is not going to benefit the animals or the zoo,” he said.

Besides, he felt that there should be a long gap between cessation of COVID-19 and starting this programme.

Activists say there are chances of spread of zoonotic diseases though some forest officials say the project could enhance tourism in the city. A retired forest officer said Vandalur zoo was set up to create awareness among the people. “Any huge investment on night safari during a pandemic is not worth it,” he said.

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