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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vandalur Zoo; Island Ground Trade fair remain closed during Pongal 2017

Cyclone Nada weakened to a depression but  Cyclone Vardah made a landfall in the city, leaving behind a trail of destruction, including a few deaths and massive damage to property. The city was shaken by its sheer velocity and devastation.  The gutsy  winds  uprooted thousands of trees, removed sheets on tops, felled hoardings and towers  across the city, many of which fell on power lines and caused outages .. .. .. .. this is an unexpected fall-out !

The harvest festival Pongal brings cheer and happiness to everybody – Chennai is a city of people who had moved in from their villages decades ago or even centuries ago – the city wears a great cosmopolitan outlook housing people from North and North-eastern India, and many foreigners as well.  On Pongal and more specifically for Kanum Pongal, thousands of city residents would throng important places – topping it would be Marina beach, Vandalur zoo and Trade fair at exhibition grounds.

The exhibition which generally is open for around 70 days, apparently is not on – perhaps after the passing away of the Hon’ble CM as it occurred after the death of MGR.   crowds would continue to throng Marina-  city Policy would step up security arrangements.   Barricades would be  erected preventing people from entering water and special podiums  equipped with public address system to take care of small children who wander away from their parents and relatives.  Temporary watchtowers with public address systems will also be set up.    There will be change in traffic arrangements as well.

Then there is the Zoo – Vandalur Zoo, in the suburb after Tambaram attracts thousands – and during Pongal (3 days) the nos. are over a lakh.  It has come a longway since its yesteryears at Moore Market Complex.  The Zoological park spread  over an area of 602 hectares (1,490 acres), including a 92.45-hectare (228.4-acre) rescue and rehabilitation centre, houses 2,553 species of flora and fauna; many of the animals are in open enclosures, visible on the moat.  Open safaris for deer and lions, the Otteri lake, an elephant bath area and white tigers are among the attractions at the zoo.

The Zoo remains closed and will not be open to visitors during Pongal, due to Cyclone Vardah.  According to zoo officials, more than 15,000 trees were uprooted in the cyclone. Pipelines supplying water to the moat area, created around enclosures with wild species, have been damaged. Electric poles and two low-tension (LT) transformers were also damaged, resulting in disruption of power supply to zoo.

One media reports puts the loss caused by cyclone at over Rs 10 crore to  the zoo. However, there was no loss of life. No animal escaped from the zoo, officials said. “Although the animals were safe, they were startled by the intense cyclone,” added a  ranger.  Facilities for the public, including safari centres in the park were damaged.

With cut in electricity, providing water to animals itself was quite a task. The caring staff carried food on their head, walking a few kilometres to reach the enclosure as passage was blocked by fallen trees at many palces.  During last floods, there were rumours of wild animals having escaped.  This time too, initial reports said that an adult Lion-tailed Macaque had escaped after the cyclone damaged the enclosures of several animals. However, zoo officials clarified that it was the langurs that had gone missing after a big tree fell on the iron mesh and damaged it completely.  Zoo officials, however, expected the langurs to return to their enclosure at the time of feeding.  Forest Officials had to work overtime to ensure that  the animals and birds are not stressed.  There were special patrol teams for checking the fallen walls and whether any animals could have escaped from their enclosures.  This was a major challenge for the zoo managers as the animals could easily swim and escape or  can even drown the pool of water.  The continued wet conditions posed health hazard to the animals also.

It is stated that there is progress in repairing ~ as of now, the zoo remains closed to public.
Edward Green Balfour (1813 – 1889) a Scottish surgeon, orientalist and pioneering environmentalist,  founded museums at Madras and Bangalore, a zoological garden in Madras.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th Jan 2017.

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