A few days back at the Byculla zoo, Mumbai a 55 year old elephant Laxmi caught hold of an intruder in its enclosure by her trunk and smashed him against the wall. The man died but it is a moot point what was the man doing in the enclosure of the elephant.
I along with friend of mine ventured to the zoo at Mumbai the scene of the accident and had a look at the elephant. I found she had been chained and was nodding her head from side to side. I wondered if it was a punishment for killing the man who had needled her. I was told by my friend who is a vet that 40% of captive elephants exhibit this behavior due to boredom and stress. Denied its natural habitat of mud and water the elephant is prone to such actions. Another point that emerged in my mind is the effect on children when they see animals kept in such cruel conditions. It cannot be healthy.
Apart from the elephant the big cats like the tigers, lions and panthers also suffer from being caged. The lack of natural water, forest and space can severely inhibit these big cats. These animals are also stressed and as they are unable to speak they must perforce suffer this confinement.It is not only the big cats but the monkeys, bear, barking deer and snakes are not any better off.
A look at the monkey’s enclosure will probably make you realize that they just sit there with a glazed look. The trees inside are sawed off and the natural area of jumping and playing are severely restricted. Having no trees to play around robs a monkey of its instincts.
Snakes kept in glass cages are also prone to suffer injury by repeatedly banging their heads against the glass walls. All in all keeping animals in cages for the amusement of the children and other visitors cannot have a healthy effect on the mind.
There is thus a need for some drastic action. Zoos like the Byculla zoo and similar zoos all over the world need to be immediately shut down. In India there is no dearth of wild life parks and sanctuaries. It will be in the interest of conservation of wild life, in case these animals are transferred to such sanctuaries. Keeping a lion or tiger or a rhino in a sanctuary or wild life park is a better option than a cage in a zoo.
In case required zoos imitating natural habitats can be set up outside the city, but zoos like the one at Byculla need to be closed forthwith. An excellent example of a zoo is the one at Delhi which to an extant has duplicated the natural environment and the animals are better off. The London zoo is also a good example.
To effect changes the government and the WWF as well as the wild life trust of India have to get their act going. Our wildlife is too precious and needs to be nurtured. Animals like the elephant are a part of Hindu culture. We cannot afford to see them end up in a museum of natural History.