‘Sensitise public to respect animals, don’t punish Delhi zoo tiger’

Kolkata, Sep 23 (IANS)┬áLamenting the lack of sensitisation among zoo visitors who tease animals and provoke them, wildlife experts and ace magician P.C. Sorcar Junior – who once had three Serengeti lions as pets – say the white tiger that mauled a man to death in the Delhi Zoo Tuesday is not to be blamed.

The shocking incident was captured live on cameras. The Delhi zoo clarified that the youth had “jumped into the enclosure” and did not slip and fall as claimed by some witnesses.

Sorcar Jr., whose wife and three daughters, “mingled freely” with the big cats, said the zoo authorities shouldn’t in any way “punish” the beast.

“Animals will attack when they are extremely hungry, insecure and irritated by teasing. I request the authorities not to punish the animal… it is not to blame.

“Public should not invade their privacy,” Sorcar told IANS.

He said he never had to face any “accidents” with the now-deceased big cats, Sultan, Samrat and Begum. One even used to sleep under his bed, he recalled.

“Samrat and Sultan were male, Begum female. Samrat, the first one, lived with my family for 23 years. They were very intelligent and used to get jealous of our daughters,” the magician said.

Director of Alipore zoo – India’s oldest, Kanailal Ghosh said despite the safety measures instated by the zoos, public behaviour is a “concern”.

The Alipore zoo has 10 big cats at present – seven Royal Bengal tigers and three white tigers. The zoo has had its fair share of controversies surrounding similar incidents.

In December 2000, a tiger killed a youth who ventured into the open-air enclosure by scaling the high wall surrounding it. In January 1996, two drunk men tried to garland a tiger after entering inside the enclosure. The animal killed one of them and injured the other.

Ghosh, who also saw the video of Tuesday’s incident in Delhi, suggested the tiger was “provoked”.

“I saw the video. One can’t blame the animal… for an animal in captivity, animal instincts aren’t really present in them as found in wild ones. It had given the victim a long time. I don’t know what exactly transpired but it seems it was provoked,” Ghosh told IANS.

Nitin Desai, Central India director of Wildlife Protection Society of India said “animals are not meant for entertainment of visitors.”

“If they have to commit to suicide then why the zoos? The animals are not at fault. Why blame them? There should be more sensitisation among the public about respecting the privacy of the animals,” Desai told IANS.

Bittu Sahgal, leading environmental activist, writer and founding editor of Sanctuary Asia, India’s premier wildlife and ecology magazine said “the incident should surely be followed by an investigation”.

“While details of the incident are yet to be fully explained, the incident should surely be followed by an investigation, not only into this tragedy, but into the whole issue of zoos in India, their mismanagement, the safety of both inmates and visitors and the fact that Indian zoos seem to have lost direction completely and have turned into entertainment parks where the animals are miserable and visitors are not oriented either towards conservation, or the welfare of animals,” he said in a Facebook post.

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