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Monday, November 23, 2015

the gesture of Zoo keeper - VOC Park & Zoo at Coimbatore

Views might differ –  animals are attractive – many enjoy seeing them in Zoological parks. The outlook and the way the animals are sheltered changed vastly from its settings at Moore market complex to Vandalur, where they were housed in bigger space in their natural surroundings. 

The bustling Coimbatore – famous for elephants and other wild animals has got a Zoo – much smaller in size though.  Named after the great patriot VO Chidambaranar – it is VOC Park and Zoo – an amusement park, children’s play area, toy train  and a zoological garden housing varieties of birds, some animals and reptiles. This park is managed by Coimbatore city Corporation.  Here is a look at some birds and not so healthy looking camels.




They may not be good looking and display a lazy gait -  but still are an attraction.  We find them at Guindy park and more at Crocodile bank nearer Mahabalipuram.  Muggers are found in large water bodies.  Crocodile attacks on people are common in places where large crocodiles are native and human populations live.  Only six of the 23 crocodilian species are considered dangerous to adult humans, and only individuals 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length or more represent a serious danger to humans, as smaller crocodiles are considered incapable of killing a person. The two species with the most well-known and documented reputation for preying on humans are the Nile crocodile and saltwater crocodile. Each year, hundreds of deadly attacks are attributed to the Nile crocodile in sub-Saharan Africa. The mugger crocodile is also very dangerous to humans, killing many people in India every year. 

The attack of crocodile could be in defense of its territory, nest, or self or can be predatory, accidental or in the course of handling by the people.

In one of my visits to Coimbatore, I went to the VOC park maintained by the Municipality.  There was an old person, who entered into the crocodile enclosure, with some difficulty and great effort using sticks opened the mouth of the mugger crocodile and shoved the meat pieces into its mouth.Astonished I asked him, why would he do that ?  - he responded that crocodiles are generally lazy and would not devour the food immediately.  The pieces may get eaten by crows and other birds…  so much devoted to his work was he but little did he realise the danger..

The other day at Crocodile park near Mahabalipuram, saw those big ungainly creatures move rather fast when pieces were thrown. One or two fell closer to the compound wall… the caretaker here, harried the crocs farther by rapid tapping of sticks , jumped inside to take out and upon climbing threw the chops closer to them.  When he asked, he said, these animals can be very angry, react very fast  and a bite can cause even lose of a limb !

Now read this article in today’s Times of India. : A Singaraj betrays no hint of fear as he enters the cages of the VOC Park mini-zoo where crocodiles and snakes are kept. As one of the longest-serving employees of the zoo, the man, in his 60s, has been taking care of these animals for several years. He has even named a few of them.

Though Singaraj has learnt the art of handling reptiles from his grandfather and father, the journey has not been always been smooth.Singaraj has been bitten by snakes and attacked by crocodiles several times. The risky job has left many scars on Singaraj but those have never deterred this animal lover who feels all the creatures treat him like a friend. “I have named a few deer and while most of the female ones have goddess' names, males are usually named after men who are known for their strength and valour,“ he says. Singaraj joined the minizoo in 1987 to look after the snakes. “My grandfather and father earned their living by handling snakes. They taught me that art too. It takes a lot of courage to catch and feed them. One should understand the reptile or the animal we are handling and ensure that we do not cause it any discomfort,“ he says.

Singaraj was instrumental in setting up the zoo. When DrPalanisamy was the zoo director, it was Singaraj who travelled with him till Amaravathi and brought 10 crocodiles from there. He travelled to the Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneshwar and brought two lions, one tiger, one bear, deer and other animals for the mini-zoo.“Though I was in charge for snakes, I have taken care of all the animals. Due to government regulations, we had to send back many animals,“ he said. He brought snakes from Alandurai and other forests near the city. Many were rescued from farms.

While there are some Singarajs’ doing their work with passion – they perhaps are not well trained and are not fully aware of the dangers that they are exposed to !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd Nov. 2015.

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