Minister enters tiger cage in zoo
Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN 17 August 2009, 01:47am IST
NAGPUR: Guardian minister of Nagpur district Balasaheb Thorat on Saturday entered the cage where three tiger cubs are kept. He, accompanied by local Congress leaders and actively encouraged by zoo officials, petted a cub in full view of media and other visitors.
This is in complete violation of Central Zoo Authority (CZA) rules and endangers the life of wild animals by causing them trauma and increasing risk of infection.
Only authorised and trained personnel can enter the cages under controlled conditions. Section 38J of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, states that no person shall tease or cause disturbance to the animals in a zoo. Conservationists say minister’s act amounts to teasing.
Talking to TOI, Thorat denied teasing the cubs. “I went to the zoo with the good intention to see how it could be developed. I am being falsely implicated.” However, this was not the only violation that Maharajbagh zoo officials have allowed. In the last fortnight, a string of VIP visitors have been allowed to get close to animals, particularly tiger cubs. Nagpur West MLA Devendra Fadnavis even fed the cubs milk from a bottle. Before that, NIT chairman Sanjay Mukherjee and city police chief Pravin Dixit were allowed to cross the security perimeter and go close to the cage, a dangerous act for animals as well as visitors.
Thorat, who was in the city for Independence Day function on Saturday, came to the zoo at about 1 pm on Saturday and spent about 25 minutes. He was accompanied by city Congress chief Jaiprakash Gupta, associate dean of agriculture college & zoo controller M M Damke, officer-incharge of the zoo Dr S S Bawaskar and 15 others. Thorat had a glimpse of deer and peacock enclosures and then headed to see the three tiger cubs.
Although Thorat was initially hesitant to enter the cage, it is learnt that zoo officials encouraged him to have a closer look and opened the gates for him. This happened in front of Damke, the zoo controller. Two cubs were pushed in the attached enclosure while one stayed put. The minister along with Gupta and Dr Bawaskar went inside and also had a photo session with the lone cub that looked visibly terrified.
Being a public holiday, the zoo had thousands visitors who watched the drama. Later, a delighted Thorat lauded the Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth (PDKV) for managing the zoo so well despite the fact that it was not the mandate of PDKV. Thorat said he would look into the matter of PDKV not spending even the gate money from the zoo for its upkeep and adding facilities. “I have sought the development plan of the zoo and will see how it it could be provided funds,” he added.
After the abandoned tiger cubs were brought to the zoo in November last year from Junona forests in Chandrapur. They were kept under strict quarantine with no visitors being allowed near them.