Sunday, April 11

Alipore zookeeper retires after 40 years’ service

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A man who spent 40 years at the Alipore zoo saved a giraffe calf briefly abandoned by her mother on his last assignment.

Shewpujon Ram gave the baby, born last Tuesday, milk from a feeding bottle for two days and also administered lactation medicines on the mother. The female calf was able to feed from her mother from Friday. Ram, the zoo’s trusted animal superviser of four decades, retired on Saturday.

The calf is one of the animals to have got a second chance at life because of Ram. Lions, zebras, deer — he was a constant during deliveries, always by the expecting mom, alert but not stressing her. All critical cases did not end well and Ram has buried several newborns. But he thrives on hope.

More than a decade ago, Ram had named a lion cub — again, abandoned by the mother and saved by him — Asha. “I did not take even one holiday for nine months to attend to the cub,” said Ram, who came to the city from a village in Saran, Bihar, in August 1979.

Ram thinks the key to handling animals is patience. “Animals are not machines. You have to be patient to understand them. You also need a cool head,” he said.

“Alipore zoo will definitely feel his absence in managing zoo animals. Being a director I always discussed with him regarding many problems of zoo animals and gladly accepted his ideas for solution. Truly speaking sometimes I became a student of him,” reads a part of a Facebook post on Ram by zoo director Asis Kumar Samanta.

Ram said he shared a bond with animals since his growing-up years. “A family buffalo was sold to a man before a sister’s wedding because we needed money. I was cycling through the village one day after the wedding. The buffalo stopped eating and came running,” he said.

In 2017, the director saw something on live CCTV footage from the kangaroo enclosure that made him sit up and take notice. A female kangaroo was bleeding heavily from one of the hind legs. The male had scratched her during a brief fight.

The marsupial needed immediate attention. “But it had to be a brief intervention. Kangaroos are extremely shy animals. There was a big risk of myopathy (damage to muscles from exertion and shock) if we held on to the injured animal for too long,” said Samanta.

Ram suggested that he would grasp the marsupial’s tail and restrict her movement, following which other keepers would grasp the front and hind legs. Research has shown that a kangaroo’s tail is more than a third leg — it propels the animal forward with as much force as its front and hind legs combined.

The plan worked and a vet applied the medicine on the wound within a few minutes.

“His dedication was unmatched. His observation and diagnosis of animals was rarely wrong,” said a vet with years of association with Ram.

Having spent a lifetime with animals, Ram now looks forward to spending more time with human beings. “I am waiting to go home and play with my grandchildren,” he said.

 

Source: The Telegraph

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