Saturday, June 19

No hard feelings, Babu the great

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he director of the Alipore zoo has posted a short video on social media showing the star chimp on his premises, and captioned it “Babu the great”.

It is an unusual message from a human to announce that he has no hard feelings for the animal that had bitten off a small portion of his left index finger three weeks ago.

The 68-second clip, posted on Facebook at 12.32pm on Thursday, shows Babu seated regally on a series of wooden logs and eating a fruit, his eyes surveying everything around with his trademark nonchalance.

On October 16, a small portion of Asis Kumar Samanta’s left index finger was severed after Babu bit it while the director was trying to swat what looked like an insect on the chimp’s nose. A wire mesh separated the two. He was treated at two government hospitals but the severed portion could not be grafted back.

The post has triggered over 80 comments. “Sabdhane (beware) sir,” read one of them, accompanied by an emoji.

One of the comments came from Samanta’s wife: “Akhono shikka hoeni (haven’t you still learnt a lesson)”. Samanta’s cheeky reply: “Jeeb seba, deb seba (to serve animals is to serve god)”.

Samanta told Metro on Friday that he had visited Babu over 10 times since the October 16 incident, to check whether there was any change in the 36-year-old chimp’s attitude”.

Much to Samanta’s relief, Babu is “completely normal”. The only caution — he has not tried to feed the animal for fear of possible infection as the wound has not healed completely.

When Samanta visited Babu a few days after the incident — he went on a short leave after the injury — the primate “came running” to him.

“He might be in captivity but is still different from a domestic animal. There are so many cases of a pet dog biting a member of the owner’s family. It was just an accident,” said Samanta.

On October 16, Samanta was petting the other three juvenile chimps at the enclosure’s night shelter. The shelter has four rooms, two of which are reserved for Babu and the rest for the other three chimps.

“I was petting the young chimps and Babu was out on display. Suddenly, Babu came running into the shelter. I don’t know whether he felt jealous,” he recounted. Samanta shifted his attention towards Babu and was feeding him when the chimp bit his finger.

Samanta said the October 16 incident was in no way going to change the way he handled animals in the park. “They are my family. Last month’s incident was just an aberration,” said Samanta, who has been at the helm of the zoo for over four years.

Asked about safety issues, he asserted that senior officials of a zoo, vets, compounders and keepers take annual anti-rabies shots and undergo a series of regular checks to ensure they are not affected by parasites from animals.

Samanta is no Jane Goodall but has his share of admirers. “Sir does not run the zoo from his cabin. He knows each animal in the zoo and each one knows him,” said Shivpujan Ram, a keeper of big cats who has been at the zoo for over two decades.


Source: The Telegraph

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