India: Tigers live in cramped cages
BANGALORE: The incident of 18-year-old royal Bengal tigress being killed by 10-year-old tiger has brought to light the state of cages in Bannerghatta Biological Park. Insufficient number of cages has forced the authorities to keep the essentially solitary wild cats to live in pairs.
The tigress, Meghana, was attacked by Bandez who was born to her and was living in the same enclosure for 10 years. On Sunday, the two suddenly started fighting in the enclosure and could not be separated by the keepers. The younger animal held its mother’s neck in a death grip, and she succumbed.
Unlike the other big cats such as lions and leopards, tigers prefer to live alone except during the mating season. Usually, tigers in the wild mark their territory and do not allow fellow cats to trespass in at least a five-km radius.
“But we are forced to keep tigers in pairs in 6 ft x 4 ft enclosures. There are about 20 enclosures for 40 tigers in the Bannerghatta Biological Park safari area,” said a forest official who did not want to be quoted.
Not that the Forest Department did not try to address this issue. A master plan was prepared in consultation with renowned zoo expert Bernard Harrison. A three-phase Rs. 20-crore plan was prepared to upgrade the safari parks and improve infrastructure for visitors.
The plan includes improvement of roads, restructuring the ticket counters and better drinking water and waste disposal facilities. Restructuring and increase in the number of cages to enable tigers more space to respect their natural instinct was included in the third phase.
This plan was approved by the State Government and the work began in 2003. Except for opening of the Butterfly Park, most of the works have not taken shape following differences between Forest Department officials and the contractor. “The contractor failed to complete the work by December 2007. Action will be taken for his failure and a fresh tender called,” said Shivanna, Member-Secretary of Zoo Authority of Karnataka, which oversees zoo operations in the State.
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