New Delhi: The near-total lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus has left crippled the upkeep of animals in India’s zoos and left them hungry.
Zoos are facing severe hardships in getting food supplies, drinking water and healthcare of captive animals as these activities do not fall under ‘essential services’ category that of those working in dairies, grocery stores and medicine stores.
State governments have imposed Section 144 and strict curfew restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus.
The restrictions have also made it difficult for veterinary doctors to commute to the zoos to check on the health of animals.
After learning of these difficulties, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has asked all state governments to include all activities related to upkeep of zoo animals under essential activities categories.
The CZA is the apex body that is responsible for oversight on maintenance of zoos, animals and in-situ conservation efforts such as breeding projects.
“State governments and administrations of union territories are requested to specify the activities of food and drinking water supply, upkeep of healthcare of captive animals housed in zoos under the ‘essential services’ and exempt them from restrictions under extant legal provisions,” read a CZA circular issued to all chief wildlife wardens.
“Procuring meat and movement of veterinary doctors are two of the biggest hardships that zoos are facing. Unless zoo-related activities are notified as essential services, there will be a problem. Many animals need regular veterinary care. Zoos can manage feed for some herbivores but procurement of meat is an issue,” said CZA member secretary Dr SP Yadav.
When asked how zoos are currently managing the supplies, Yadav said, “They are getting by with the help of contacts in municipal corporations. It has been a struggle for them (though).”
There are 145 recognised zoos in the country and they see a footfall of around eight crore annually, Yadav said.
The CZA’s circular also comes a day after Lok Sabha MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi tweeted an appeal to all Indians to feed as many stray animals as possible to help them survive.
Mysore Zoo, Nandakan Zoological Park, Bhubaneshwar, Vandalur Zoo in Chennai and Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park and National Zoological Park, Delhi, are some of the biggest zoos in the country.
These zoos house all major fauna such as tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, elephants, crocodiles and giraffes.