Stripes to the rescue

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!
Zebras live in herds and they enjoy huge numbers of their species around them and they breed pretty well in captivity. If a Zoo has a nice, acre and half open grassy enclosure with a few trees and some flowing waters it makes for an ideal Zebra exhibit. This was exactly what the Delhi Zoo had and we used to breed Zebras well. Nothing exotic but plain Burchells Zebra. A herd galloping through the two acre open enclosure would be a great sight. The moat had nice clean flowing water with plenty of huge Rohu fish interspersed with a smattering Sole fish who would respond to a call baited with some bread crumbs.

Our pair of Zebra was breeding particularly well and we had some five of them soon enough. We got a couple of good exchanges and gave away three of the offsprings to another Zoo.

The original pair we had was doing very well and the male who answered to the name of Raju was quite a character! He was my self appointed body guard and also that for our keeper and his assistant. The enclosure, by the way was also occupied by a trio of Ostriches. The male was a particularly bad tempered individual who would for no reason attack, if he was approached with in some 10-15 feet. (this was his private space and would not tolerate any one there). Refuge would be in running and standing behind a tree. Even if the Ostrich kicked, the legs would fly harmlessly on either side of the tree and the human would be as safe as if he were behind a 6 feet wall. A few pecks on the tree and a couple of unproductive kicks would have the Ostrich frustrated and he would soon join his harem and leave the intruding human being in peace.

There however was a rare scenario when the human would be caught in the open and the refuge tree was nowhere close by. That is when Raju would come into the picture .All that one had to do was to let out a few loud anguished cries for Raju who would come hooves thundering on and literally push the attacking Ostrich off to another place while the human could run to find a proper refuge!

This “rescue run” was a game which Raju thoroughly enjoyed and would never fail to carry out. Raju was a real darling to all of us and he has saved our bacon very many times. He would never attack the Ostriches at any other time and thus this rescue mission was always a very pleasant surprise.

All of us in the zoo felt extremely close to Raju.

More on Raju in my next episode.

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