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Monday, November 17, 2014

Tiger escapade at Vandalur zoo

People throng to Zoo to see and enjoy animals – the one at Vandalur is sprawling and attracts huge crowds – far cry from the days, it was housed in Lily Pond complex [Moore Market] nearer Central Station. In 1979, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department set aside 1,265 acres in the Vandalur Reserve Forest on the outskirts of the city to build the current zoo  and the zoo in its new premises was officially opened to public  in 1985  by the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu M.G. Ramachandran. 

The zoo is in news as reportedly, a portion of the retaining wall of the tiger enclosure collapsed -  reports of the big cats being at large created a scare.  There has been some drama and conflicting reports that tigers have escaped their enclosure and are at large.  However, on Saturday, zoo authorities said they had sighted Vidya, the two-year-old Royal Bengal tigress, within her enclosure. Four other big cats, which were also housed in the enclosure, were safely retrieved and shifted to other quarters.

Then there were reports of a team of animal keepers along with the zoo veterinarian attempting to tranquilise Vidya, and transfer her to safety. But the animal had not been sighted.  Zoo authorities said the broken retaining wall had left an open space that the tigers could pass through to other areas of the zoo. They immediately erected a chain link fence to cover the open portion.  In order to confirm the animal’s presence within the enclosure, the authorities left pieces of beef there and the next day morning the authorities reported that  the meat left in the open had been eaten by the tigress. They also spotted the animal’s pugmarks in the enclosure.  It was stated that the animal could not sighted as the place was overrun by wild growth.   The Zoo director is quoted as saying that there was no need for panic.  The Hindu reported the above story concluding that Vidya is the offspring of a white tigress and a normal tiger.

Many other newspapers also reported the same story and here is something from Times of India, Chennai edition. For more than 36 hours they held their breath, combing through the thick vegetation of the tiger enclosure at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur. And, around 5.30pm on Saturday, they sighed in relief after spotting those unmistakable stripes. Nethra, the Royal Bengal tiger that had gone ‘missing’ since Friday morning after a portion of an outer wall had collapsed in the previous night’s rain, was found.

Zoo officials said a 10member team of forest guards and veterinarians, which had been looking for three-year-old Nethra on foot, saw her in the enclosure. Sources said the zoo was not equipped to conduct an aerial search. Around 7am on Friday, forest officials noticed that a 30m portion of the seven-metre high wall of the enclosure for five Bengal tigers had collapsed. The wall was built in 1982 when the zoo was being established.

Vidya, Padma, Aarthi and Uthra, the other inhabitants of the enclosure were in their night shelter, but Nethra, who had been out in the yard, could not be located. Officials began to worry and placed thorny plants along the collapsed portion of the wall. The area was cordoned off and a search began for Nethra in and outside the enclosure. Now if you have spotted it out [not the tiger but the discrepancy] – the Hindu says ‘Vidya’ went missing – TOI states Vidya is in and Nethra was missing !

Whether it was Vidya or Netra, fear gripped the village in Vandalur and the residents, mostly daily wage labourers, who had to spend sleepless nights.  Though there is huge compound wall, they are apprehensive that the animal(s) could find their way out and cause some harm to people and their cattle.    Such fears have  been a constant companion for the residents of surrounding villages like Nedungundram and Irumbuliyur. A few months ago, a few residents of another village in Vandalur spotted a leopard and forest officials even laid a trap but the big cat was not caught.

In 2011, villagers were on alert after a python escaped from its enclosure at the zoo. The villagers also have to put up with monkeys and snakes in the surrounding wooded area.   In Sept. 2011, I had posted about the escape of  nine foot burmese python.  An year earlier,  in suburban Tambaram a 70 year old carpenter and his wife happily watching a soap opera on television had a surprise visitor. It did not walk in but crawled. The nocturnal guest was a four foot long marsh crocodile.  There were confounding theories that a kite or a crow could have picked up a young infant from captivity, which could have slipped and fallen into a water body. That time Zoo officials did not panic – they did not even put up any boards of the escapade of python – and their casual ways paid off.  A couple of months later, the big python was found in bushes near the enclosure. The eight-year-old reptile, which had swallowed a chicken kept near the enclosure as bait, was spotted by a keeper.  The python was then placed in its enclosure.

Away, Gurgaon forest department officials have found the body of a 12- year-old leopard in Sehrawan village on NH-8 near Manesar. Officials said it could be a case of road accident because the big cat’s body bore several injuries including multiple injuries on the head and spine. This is stated to be the fifth incident of a leopard’s body being found in the area in the past seven to eight months.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Nov. 2014.


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