Zoo Authority sends SOS to govt on animals’ food
Bengaluru: In the wake of the extended Covid-19 lockdown, the Bannerghatta Biological Park is suffering a severe financial crisis.
Dr Umashankar HP, a senior veterinarian at the Bannerghatta zoo and media spokesperson, said: “Currently, there is no revenue. We need Rs 2 crore every month to run zoo operations that include staff salaries, and maintenance of animals and the zoo.”
Ticket sales are a major revenue-earner. From March to May, the zoo gets most footfalls, but for a second consecutive year, it has remained shut during these months.
The only non-government employees at the park are the animal keepers and security guard. “We can’t lay off either. Both are equally necessary for the park,” said Umashankar.
The government does not provide any special funds to the zoo as it is self-sustaining. It maintained the self-sustaining tag during the last lockdown by ramping up its adoption programme.
The Zoo Authority of Karnataka has approached the state government for financial assistance to help meet the animals’ dietary requirements.
BP Ravi, member secretary of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka, said: “We need close to Rs 6 crore to maintain the zoos at Mysuru, Bannerghatta, Shivamogga, Hampi, Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Gadag, Davanagere and Chitradurga. We have requested the government to help us with funds….”
Corporate social responsibility funds cannot be provided to zoos, Ravi added.
Alongside its regular adoption process, the zoo recently introduced a one-day adoption programme where anyone can feed an animal for a day. So far this year, 153 of the 2,388 animals have been adopted. Corporates like Toyota Motors, Jindal Steel and Kumar Organics Product Ltd have adopted some animals as a goodwill measure.
Addressing a press conference in Mysuru on May 8, Zoo Authority chairman L.R. Mahadevaswamy said: “There are nine zoos in the state. Of them, Mysuru (zoo) and the Bannerghatta Biological Park have a fixed deposit of Rs 30 crore in banks.” The interest earned from these deposits is being spent on maintenance of the seven other zoos.
After eight Asiatic lions at the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad tested positive for Covid-19, the Bannerghatta zoo has ramped up sanitation and vaccinated all its animal keepers.
Umashankar said: “After the outbreak of the avian influenza, we have started to wash raw chicken with hot water and pass it through ultraviolet rays before feeding it to the animals. Now we have provided masks and gloves to animal keepers. Frequent sanitation is continuing despite the absence of crowds. Safety is our top priority. However, random animal testing is not necessary without symptoms. The four new-born cat cubs and the lions are kept under watch. They are all healthy, with good immunity. We have continued to provide all the essential nutrients and medicines.”
Asked about the beef ban, Umashankar said, “Even during the first lockdown, we weren’t able to get beef. So we fed the animals chicken, and their lipid profile was normal. So that’s not an issue now.”
Experts say captive animals require extra care and cannot be left in wild. Zoo officials hope for a speedy return to normalcy.