Chat Archives
Chat on "Is there a case for keeping large mammals in zoos?" dated June 18, 2004

    Susan  "Is there a case for keeping large mammals in zoos?" is our topic for today. Welcome! 

    Susan  Welcome zooman! 

    zooman  Thank you Susan. I had problem to access in the begining

    zooman  I think the most crucial question is the very purpose of having a zoo. What is it meant for? 

    Susan  Zoo is the best place for education. Education begins wth seeing live animals.

    zooman  The objectives of zoos have become to be just exhibits for recreation. 

    Susan  It is only a very small percentage of people who can afford to go to a N.P for seeing animals. 

    zooman  Zoos or Zoological parks are meant to act as reservoirs of animals for conservation through captive breeding and reintroduction or introduction 

    Susan  We must think of zoos as education centres first . 

    zooman  Even for an education centre, it should be near natural. There is no point in showing animals in cages and the visitor will return with the impression that the animals are always like this. 

    Susan  Captive breeding centres must be private and not open to public. 

    zooman  I remember an incident where a family came to the zoo and the child curiously asked her father. "why is it that some of the deers do not have antlers and some are with just butts. 

    zooman  The naswer of the poor father was that probably the zoo people must have cut it and taken it. What is the use of a zoo without proper label and messages. 

    Susan  There is a theory by an experienced zookeeper that more than space, animals value safety and food availability. 

    zooman  Captive breeding centres could be kept away from public. But the animals have to be provided with the natural surroundings for breeding 

    zooman  The zookeeper feels safe inside the cages. I remember the ZOOOutreach Organisation's cartoon. Imagine you are inside with the people inside and the animals teasing the caged human beings. 

    Susan  The curiosity of many children are rebuffed by adults-sad! 

    zooman  Most of the zoos cannot also go for captive breeding because of isolation of animals. Some have males and some females. 

    Susan  The ideal situation is of course an open zoo concept like in Singapore Zooological gardens. 

    zooman  It was the fault of the zoo people. Most of the adults are also ignorant on these matters. 

    zooman  But there should be exchange of genes. Most of the present zoos are islands with lots of inbreeding problems.

    Susan  I read an interesting news the other day. Assam Zoo has made a presentation to corporates for adoption of animals. 

    zooman  The same has happened in Kerala also. Govt. cannot afford and hence go for sponsors. 

    zooman  Luckily there is lots of awareness among the zoo officials and employees but they are mostly helpless because of  lack of resources including space and money. 

    Susan  Singapore zoo is entirely financed by large corporates. I think all our zoos should move in the same direction.

    Susan  I feel that zoos which have space and resource constraint must stick to exhibiting regional animals only and that too only small animals. 

    zooman  Singapore zoo is professionally designed and managed. I remember going around the area with the chief and most places I thought it was natural. 

    Susan  Keeping a snow leopard or a Siberian Tiger in Nainital Zoo looks cruel. 

    zooman  Unfortunately there is a wrong impression that the zoos should have larger animals especially the one like chital.

    zooman  Predators are really not good for small spaces.  Rules do not permit sale. Some times they are shifted to new places where again the problem persists

    Susan  So, also Singapore Zoo used to have a lone elephant. 

    zooman  Look at the zoos in most places where they have problems with excess of chital, sambar deer, black buck. They breed well.

    Susan  Can't we release the excess deer in the wild?    

    zooman  I think as you said, the zoos should specialise in smaller ones, like the nocturnal house in Aringnar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai where they have also a nocturnal house. It is true of Mysore also 

    zooman  Releasing in the wild is difficult. The health conditions of the captive animals are very bad. there is no proper health monitoring in many of the zoos.. 

    Susan  What animals are kept in the nocturnal house? How do people get to see them? 

    Susan  Are we afraid the captive ones will dilute the genetic pool in the wild? 

    zooman  You have to follow a lots of procedures for releasing an animal to the wild even if it is in near natural condition like the Centre for Wild Rescue and Rehabilitation managed by Wildlife Trust of India in Kaziranga. 

    zooman  The sitaution is created in such a way that a type of glass make you see the animl but the animal does not see the visitor. 

    Susan  What animals are kept in the nocturnal house? 

    zooman  The lighting is also such that during the day time, the light is made to look like night and the animal is active. During night time, the animal is given enough lighting to feel like day time and the animal sleeps. So the visiotr will be seeing an active nocturnal animal in such facilities. 

    zooman  The nocturnal ones could be the civets, even mongooses and a few other smaller ones 

    zooman  Lesser cats are also possibilities 

    Susan  This is a new concept in India , I think. 

    zooman  Frankly, we do not have the resources to maintaining so many zoos in proper shape giving due consideration to the animal welfare 

    zooman  The nocturnal houses are there in a few places even within India. 

    Susan  What do you think can be done with the excess no. of deer etc. in zoos? 

    zooman  The small mammal houses could also be made very attractive with natural settings and they are cute and beautiful in addition to being active.  

    zooman  The excess number (?) of animals (the males) in the zoos are often sterilised. There are problems with this also. The lions loose their mane and look ugly. The issue is really complex. 

    zooman  People come forward to buy the deer and other "edible" ones saying that they want to have it for aesthetics. It is wrong and once given the animal will be eaten. 

    zooman  The keeprs and animals are supposed to be periodically checked for health parameters. Wonder how many zoos do these. may be bigger ones. 

    Susan  Delhi Zoo seems to be doing some interesting things. They are getting good coverage by the Times of India which is an excellent development. The Zoo Director shares his problems as well as positive steps taken with the public. 

    zooman  The Central Zoo Authority is trying their best within their limitations. Rules are not enough. It is difficult to be implemented. Most of the zoos could be closed as per the standard of the CZA. But then the state is strong and politics come in 

    Susan  If we have to have zoos for the public, the public need to be aware of what is happening on a continuous basis. 

    zooman  Yes Mr. Bonal is doing good work. Everything depends on the individual. There should be a system. Bonal cannot be kept in captivity for a long time. He has to go to the wild and there should be somebody with the same interest coming in. 

    Susan  Once the public become aware of some of the crucial issues, may be zoos will get better support, morally and financially.

    zooman  The public should also be told what they can expect and what they should not. No one finds fault with the Wildlife Sanctuary officials if they do not see tiger or any other animals. It is wild. Let us also give a message to the people on the conservation and education value of the zoos. 

    Susan  I wonder why no one else turned up for the discussion? Do our members find the subject of captive animals so distasteful? 

    zooman  The Zoo centered education programmes have to be strengthened with particiaption of lots of young nature interpretors.   Television could also be made use of. 

    zooman  There was an AIR programme in Thrissur station in kerala where the Programme Executive asked me to walk around the zoo answering the curious questions of the children. It was very good. but questions were really innocent and natural and hence tough. I think I had to request to delete two questions for which I did not have a good answer. Kids are superb.   

    zooman  The local TV channels can also contribute. They all feel that there is Discovery and National geographoic or animal planet. These do not reach the public at large. And the zoos are never a discussion topic most of the time. 

    Susan  I think zoos must employ" interested youngsters " after training them as animal keepers on an apprenticeship and then as educators. 

    zooman  Distatsteful could be. I think we may have to make it more participatory with more experts also. I had requested three of my zoo friends to join. Unfiortunately, they are all travelling and one of them is still returning home.

    Susan  Some of our school dropouts can be trained as good animal keepers if properly motivated.

    zooman  I wonder whether the time is also convenient as the members may not be reaching home to chat. 

    Susan  Next month we can start at 8.00 Pm What topic will you suggest? 

    zooman  There are smart youngsters who could be employeed even as volunteers on rotation. We had arranged the college students of Thrissur, even the veterinary students for interpreation in Thrissur zoo. It went on well for a month but there was the continuity problem. 

    zooman  We have time to think of the topic. I shall also try for some other experts for contribution to the discussion. It will be good to have a panel. 

    zooman  I think let us say bye for the time being. 

    Susan  The volunteers must learn to look after the animals first- like cleaning their cages, giving them food etc. that will make their interpretations more down to earth and not bookish. 

    zooman  The volunteer system is not common here. I remember having teacher trainees coming as volunteers in the Smitsonian Institutions Small mammal house in Front Royal. 

    Susan  Thank you ver much. We will be in touch thro' mail 

    zooman  The volunteers are trainees who gets accommodation and possibly a food allowance. 

     Susan  Thanks again. 

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