Fights in the Zoo

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!

As I put my pen to these writing sheets I am serenaded by the singing of a variety of species of birds, thanks to my neighbour who has not built his house and has his plot overgrown with a number of trees and bushes which form a virtual mini jungle, home to a number of birds.

Though most of my life I spent in "jungly" surroundings --- during my retired life the jungle has followed me even to the very concrete jungle that I live in.

The music provided by the birds is very soothing and as I was just ready to go into a reverie- there is a harsh cacophony and unmistakable sounds of a bird fight. As I go into the back yard I am greeted by a flurry of feathers flying in all directions and am witness to two Red cheeked Bulbuls slugging it out. The fight is fierce but brief and soon has the victor sitting on the top of the house singing an ebullient victory song while the vanquished flies away without much loss except for a few down feathers and a bit of his dignity; but alive and well to live and fight another day.

The fight was for nesting rights in my "curry pattha" tree which is tenderly tended for by the LOH (lady of the house) plus I keep a hawk eye on the marauding cat which if not put in its proper place would like to use the shade of this plant for doing its 'big job' which in turn will send its horrible smell through the house. Thus the combination of our care makes the tree an ideal spot for the nesting of small birds .

Well to come back to my real story. We used to be witness to a large number of fights between the in- mates of the Zoo.- There would be sparring bouts between deer round the year or fights for the harem during the rutting season and finally the fights to death by different species, Rare but true, the fights between male and female deer would also sometimes end in death!

We used to have a male Brow-antlered deer which would invariably gore females during the rutting season and had to be shut up in dens during those months.

One of the fights was one that I would never forget. One that I could do nothing about saving the contestants! A number of snakes lived in the grounds of the Zoo where food and shelter were a- plenty. Once in a while if there was any shortage of food, number of rats would be taken from the enclosure of the carnivores and these could be had with out any problem from the occupants. The rats came to eat the left over of the food of these animals. This "live and let live" was the rule of the inmates but once the rule was broken with serious consequences.

A huge cobra squeezed into the Raccoon feeding den at night and there was an unusual fight royale. Both species belonging to two continents had never seen each other and knew nothing about the weapons each had. Well the morning saw the Raccoon dead - poisoned, but not before the snake was bitten and cut up into at least 3-4 pieces. The post mortem only confirmed what we had thought of already--- all we could do was to add this incident to our list of disappointments.

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