Forest and trees

The Making of a Zoo Man

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

The Making of a Zoo Man

The urge to look after wild animals started off at a very young age especially fuelled off by my Dad's hobby of keeping not only domestic animals but also wild ones at home. At about the age of 7+ I had the chance to enter a pigeon coop and help my father to clean it up, change the water and feed. I could, after some instruction, find out the sick ones, treat them and after some years could even do minor surgery.

The local jungly area around South Delhi gave me a chance to hunt the ring necked doves and eat these after roasting them on an open fire. These were joints which my parents knew nothing about but my prowess with the catapult was well known to my friends around and in the colony we lived in.

Soon after school choosing a subject for college was not any problem and soon I was pouring over thick Zoology, Botany and other science books and cutting up all sorts of inoffensive creatures in the lab.

After graduating I did a job as a public relations man and also one knocking off beetles and worms from bags and bags of wheat and other grain. My delight knew no end when I came across an ad where the Delhi Zoological Park wanted what they called a 'Zoo Ranger'. I appeared for a test. Luckily all the questions were of a practical nature and thus were well up my street. The interview also turned out to be a zoo man's delight and it seems that I did well. In spite of a few candidates having pulls and pushes, I was selected and thus I was thrown on to a job where my teachers were older zookeepers, a colleague who had been there for a couple of years and of course my boss and the good old library. Last but not the least I must mention the wild animals under my charge- for they also taught me a lot about my job.

During my tenure with the zoo I was selected for a training course at the Jersey Wildlife Trust and could get a professional insight into my job , most of which I had learnt through experience. A number of foreign zoo experts taught me skills like using the tranquilizing equipment.

I had the great fortune of traveling with a number of wild animals to deliver them to different destinations both within India and abroad which were very instructive indeed.

One cannot make money on this job but the adventure and satisfaction of a wonderful job is well worth the job of a curator in any zoo.

If I had a chance to do it all over again I 'd do it, though hopefully better!!

Toby Ninan can be contacted at

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