Indian tiger cubs play in their enclosure at Nagpur Zoo
Roar of disapproval as Indian politician pats tiger
NEW DELHI — An Indian state minister sparked a row after entering a cage of tiger clubs and patting one of animals, flouting rules that allow only trained conservationists to handle endangered species.
Balasaheb Thorat, an agricultural minister in the state of Maharastra, was filmed on Saturday stroking a tiger in Nagpur city zoo as his armed security guards looked on.
“What the minister did was very dangerous,” said Kishore Rithe, a leading conservationist and secretary of the Satpuda Foundation, a wildlife charity.
“The tiger could have mauled him, forcing the security personnel to retaliate.”
Animal rights activist K. Hate told the Press Trust of India news agency that Thorat should be punished for breaking the Indian Wildlife Act by entering the zoo’s tiger enclosure.
Thorat defended himself after footage was shown on television, saying “I wanted to see how the staff are taking care of the cubs, and I saw they are doing a good job.”
Close contact between endangered species and humans is restricted by zoos worldwide to reduce the animals’ trauma and the risk of infection.
Numbers of Bengal tigers living in the wild in India has declined dramatically in recent years and is estimated by the World Wildlife Fund to now be just a few thousand.