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Friday, April 5, 2013

Man loses hand in gator attack and is arrested for illegal feeding !

There are places like Zoological parks where animals are kept as exhibits – they serve the twin purpose of being showpieces as also they get protected at attempted increase in their population. There are exotic pets, wild animals and more kept in different habitats.  Nearer Chennai, we have this Crocodile farm, where you can see hundreds of crocodile kept, bred and living in congenial atmosphere.  A cousin of Crocodile is the alligator of the same genus, colloquially called ‘gator’ in US.  There are two living alligator species: the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis).  The name alligator is an anglicized form of el lagarto, the Spanish term for "lizard", which early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator.

There are of course differences between ‘crocs and gators’ – one of the observable difference being the head.  Alligators and caimans have wider and shorter heads, and a more U-shaped than V-shaped snout.  When the crocodile's mouth is closed, the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw fits into a constriction in the upper jaw.  The lazy crocodile can be frightful and move at a great speed when chasing a prey.  

The commonest problem observed in most Zoos is people feeding and provoking animals.  They throw biscuits, fruits, popcorns and other fried items into the enclosures of animals, abandoning all the instructions and caution signs.  To them, the animals must eat, perform, dance – and do everything, when they are watching.. even if it is not their natural animal behaviour.  Quite often animals fall ill eating what they ought not to and there have been reports of plastic bags and other foreign matter found in the stomach of animals. They lose their appetite, develop stranger illnesses and sometimes die also.   How sad !   

This sad story is true in case of stray cattle that dot the city roads, they end up eating posters, and every other rubbish as many owners do not provide them proper nourished food, leave them to find food for themselves in the concrete jungle but milk them regularly by injecting them with drugs.  

The purpose of animals in Zoo is not entertaining the crowd.  The zoo keepers strain their nerves to properly nourish and keep them in good health.  There was a report that when  Manhattanites in large numbers visited their newly renovated Central Park Zoo,  they purchased more than 10,000 bags of colored popcorn. Aware of the popcorn's destination, alarmed zoo officials posted bright new signs which read: ‘Do not feed or annoy animals - $25 Fine’  - though the legal fine could be much lower, this was done to deter the crowd feeding the animals with popcorns.  

At the time of Pongal, very huge crowds visit Vandalur and Beach, one can find the places strewn with remains of sugarcane crushed, juice taken and left as garbage everywhere – animals would be fed with sugarcane which when provided in ration would be a treat to pachyderms but not to many others. !!

There are places where law enforcement is stringent.  Recently, in Florida, an airboat captain lost his right hand after an alligator leaped out of the water and bit off his limb.  Despite losing his hand he was able to steer the airboat back to the base where he was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery.  The general mob reaction would have been to maul and kill the reptile responsible.  

At Florida, things are different, alligator was tracked down and killed, but doctors were unable to reattach the hand.  Captain Wallace Weatherholt was jailed after officials decided to press criminal charges of unlawful feeding of reptile.  The Holidaymakers on the airboat told wildlife officials  that the Captain had been dangling a fish over the water to entice the alligator and in Florida  it is a criminal offence [a second-degree misdemeanor] to feed alligators.

An expert was quoted as saying that when gators are fed, they lose their natural fear of humans and are more likely to attack.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th July 2012.

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