Far from being a safe heaven, Bhubaneshwar's Nandankanan Zoological Park has become a graveyard for the tigers. In the past one year, more than 15 tigers have died in the park. On July 5, 2001, Bisakha, a 20-year-old Royal Bengal tigress died of pneumonia after a prolonged illness. "Heavy rainfall proved fatal for the tigress," said a park official. Experts ask why Bisakha was not shifted to the hospital in such weather conditions.
The park authorities have come in for strong criticism for their negligence. In June 2001, a 12-year-old Royal Bengal tigress died due to respiratory problems. Another two tigers died while they were being shifted to zoological parks in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Twelve Royal Bengal tigers of the park had died on July 5, 2000, after contracting a parasitic infection. Following the incident, there was a controversy over the real reason of the deaths and doubts were raised over the scientific management of the park (see 'Royal deaths', Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 5, July 31, 2000).
But the zoo authorities do not seem to have learnt any lessons from these deaths. They are yet to implement the recommendations made by the Central Zoo Authority, including renovation and development of the zoo's dispensary and making provision for a 24-hour veterinary service inside the park. The problem of overcrowded enclosures has also not been addressed.
Admitting that the park was in a pathetic state, the park's director, Binod Kumar, said, "We have mobilised funds from various sources, however, a lot needs to be done to provide a healthy environment for the animals." The Nandankanan Suraksha Samiti, a voluntary body comprising representatives of nearly 35 villages surrounding the park, recently submitted a memorandum to the park authorities urging them to improve the living conditions of the animals.
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