No More Tigers Please!

When it comes to big cats, it’s a problem of plenty in Thiruvananthapuram zoo. A leopard and a tiger trapped in Wayanad were just brought in in the last month. The zoo just can’t take anymore of them; it’s exhausted its capacity by a long way. For a medium sized zoo which can keep six tigers and six leopards, there are, at present, nine tigers including two white tigers and six leopards.

But, by all appearances, there are more to come.

While visitors will not complain, this influx is really not a good sign and is in fact a pointer to the increasing man-animal conflict in Kerala, due mainly to human interference and unregulated construction activities in forest areas and shrinking habitats. Cases of wild animals straying into human populations and being trapped by forest department because of the dangers they pose is on the up. Once trapped, most are shifted to zoos as relocation rarely ends well for wildlife.

Established in 1857, Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is one of the oldest in India
Established in 1857, Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is one of the oldest in India

“The space is limited here. We have told the Forest officials that it will be difficult to take in any more animals from the wild. We took in the tiger because it was a contingency,” said Zoo Director K Gangadharan the other day.

Both the tiger and the leopard are wounded and are now housed in the zoo hospital. The three-year-old leopard has improved but the 16 year old tiger is old and badly wounded.

As per the rules, if any wild animals are brought in, they should first be put in a quarantine station outside the zoo before being introduced to the zoo to avoid spread of infections.

Leopard in its enclosure at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo
Leopard in its enclosure at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo

Rescue centres for animals are the ideal place to house them, however, the Forest and Wildlife Department does not have many. Also, authorities have been caught unawares with the recent surge in wild animals being caught.

Another option is to follow the example of Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat where big carnivores that cannot be released into the wild are housed in separate safari-like natural setting which also gives visitors a chance to see the animals without venturing into deep forests.

The proposed Puthur Zoo is expected to ease some of the space constraints, but work there is progressing at a very slow pace and there’s no clear indication on when it will be ready.