It has been over two weeks since he last saw a visitor. True, Babu loves summers. That’s when he gets to relish juicy seasonal fruits. But this summer has been lonely. And the playful 31-year-old chimpanzee at the Alipore zoo doesn’t like being lonely. He loves to be surrounded by humans — something that’s not happening since the coronavirus pandemic hit Indian shores.
According to zoo director Asis Kumar Samanta, the loneliness is not restricted to Babu. “A number of other apes are also unhappy. They are eating normally but their behaviour is different. Most of them sit in one corner and lack enthusiasm,” he said.
But according to the director, most other birds and animals are doing just fine. The reason for that, he said, is the fact that anything between 3,000 and 4,000 people visit the zoo daily between April and July. “A number of visitors tease the animals and traumatise them. So for most of them, the lockdown has come as a relief,” he added.
The deer and antelopes, for instance, usually stay away from the fences and the visitors. “But now, they are grazing close to the fences and roaming around freely,” Asis said, adding that even the big cats and the birds are having a great time. “Visitors throw food, shout and even rattle the fences to make these poor creatures come out. The lockdown that put a stop to that after years,” another zoo official told us.
Losses piling up
The lockdown has translated into major losses for the zoo. According to the director, the zoo earns more than `30 lakh per month in summer and that goes towards the annual budget of `15 crore. “While `4 crore is spent on the food of the animals and birds, the rest is spent on other heads. So, if things don’t get normal within a few weeks, we are going to end up making losses of around `50 lakh,” he said.
No shortage of food
The zoo officials had a meeting with suppliers ahead of the lockdown to ensure smooth supply of food items. So, as usual, the deer and antelopes are enjoying summer fruits, the bear, curd-rice, and the apes are getting fruits and even lassi.
Source: Times of India