Cause with a 'Wild' Twist
The cause for animal rights that is finding expression at the Prince of Wales Zoological Gardens in Lucknow is one of a kind. Contrary to the hohallah that animal rights activists create aka the dharnas and demonstrations for the caged critters making a case for their right to freedom worldwide, in the city of nawabs the movement that is gaining grounds is by the people for the animals and that too silently!
The focus is more on improving the quality of life of the animals in confinement instead, and city folks are going all out to do their best. More of a community initiative denizens are doing their bit by adopting zoo animals and sponsoring their upkeep. Such a move has helped take the financial burden off the zoo authorities who have been struggling to make ends meets when it came to maintenance and upkeep of inmates.
Says Renu Singh, Director Lucknow Zoo, who came up with the ingenious schemes to get the community involved in doing their bit for the,"Adoptions of our animals has breathed new life into the zoo. Since we no longer are we facing a cash crunch the extra funds that we have have been put into improving the overall ambiance.The footfalls have increased and zoo has become a must visit place and quite popular with city people. When we began inviting sponsors to adopt the zoo animals I was not sure what the response would be, but I was pleasantly surprised at the requests that began coming by corporates and individuals wanting to take on the responsibility of care and upkeep of the animals. The scheme has been so successful that the total revenue raised by such adoptions are touching almost Rs 39,66,729/- ever since it began 2 years ago. Now we have a waiting list of individuals wanting to adopt the animal of their choice. Seeing such enthusiasm we have also opened up the gardens and parks up for sponsorship."
Confirms Seema Singh, Senior Manager Marketing United Bank of India,"Our bank decided to adopt Jason the Chimpanzee and a golden monkey. We were also keen to adopt Nikita, the female chimpanzee but someone else beat us to it. Nevertheless we are going through the list of animals at the zoo and will pick an animal soon to adopt with the left over funds we have."
On the other hand a retd colonel in the Indian Army who adopted Nikita the chimpanzee feels, "As citizens it is our duty to help share the responsibility of taking care of any living creature that cannot fend for themselves. These animals would have been able to survive in wild on their own but in captivity they are totally dependent on us and should not be allowed to suffer on account of lack of funds."
Adds AC Hari DGM, Oriental Bank Of India who has adopted two tigers,"As the annual maintenance of the tigers of Rs 1,60,000 was well within our budget we decided to adopt them. The aim is just to make the life of these animals better in captivity, tigers are disappearing from the wild so this gives us a chance to do something for them so that their numbers increase in captivity."
With most corporate firms allocating a budget for social causes the adopting animals at the zoo has become quite a hit with the them as well. Expenses ranging from a mere Rs 1000 - 588,390/-annually everyone can find a animal to adopt as per their budget.
Says a senior manager of a petroleum products industry in the city who prefers to remain anonymous,"The budget is already allocated for social causes every year but adoption and upkeep of zoo animals seemed the perfect way of doing our bit. And to be honest its a two way approach when we put up our board with the company name on it it helps us get publicity as well. All our branches plan to utilise their social budget in such causes."
But while the corporates and city folks are living up to their social responsibility the Zoo authorities too are not far behind in coming up with innovative ideas to attract attention to the zoo and its critters.
Birthday bashes for the Cheetahs, Chimpanzees, deers and Giraffes, naming ceremonies for the Pelican chicks, Valentines day celebrations for the tigers and Zebras etc all are events that the Lucknow Zoo regularly organises to pull in the crowds to promote the adoption schemes for the animals.
On the other hand so enthusiastic is the staff here in organising such events that the Director of the Zoo refers to the two Cheetah cubs she hand reared as her own daughters, "The Cheetah cubs Suheli and Sharda brought to Lucknow Zoo from Dudhwa National Park only eight days old when some rangers found them abandoned by their mother. Having hand reared them I refer to them as my own daughters. They are a year old now and I have just celebrated their birthday on January 18 and very soon they too will be up for adoption."
In addition Singh has also made extra efforts to acquire rare and endangered species for her zoo which have also become quite a crowd puller,"A white civet cat has just been placed at our nocturnal house. No zoo in the country has this animal but we got it when it was being smuggled out of the state by poachers who were nabbed by the Special Task Force. I got in touch with STF and requested them to place the animal with us which they did." Another animal she is trying hard to get now is the man eater tiger which has been terrorising various districts of UP, he too will be up for adoption!
But will want to adopt a man eater? "Everyone of course," she chuckles "The controversy that surrounds the tiger has already turned him into a celebrity. So the requests are going to be pouring in to adopt him and save him from getting killed."
Truly a cause for animal rights this!
Anjali Singh - Citizen News Service (CNS)
(The author is a senior journalist and Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Top photo caption: Director Zoo Renu Singh with two leopard cubs rescued from Dudhwa National Park. She hand reared the cub and now they are up for adoption.]
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