Truth No More: “This place treats its animals better.”
This is something I have heard being said in various circles, for quite some time now. People claim that stray cats and dogs are fed by shopkeepers and house makers. The bandwallas treat their horses well. The elephants in Kalindi Kunj get enough to eat. But few bother to feed a homeless tramp who shrinks into corners to keep the cold away. Even fewer give the traffic-signal beggars a glance for they are just that – beggars – and apparently averse to working for a living. Better be a homeless animal than a homeless human in Delhi, they say. But this impression that I was under has gone for a toss with the news of the chinkara massacre. Two stray dogs got into their cage in the Delhi Zoo recently and bit them to their deaths. Four chinkaras. One male, two females and a calf. All dead.
The dogs were wild. But were the zookeepers wild as well? How on earth did the beasts enter the cage and stay long enough to murder? “We are yet to get CCTV surveillance.” the zoo says. This, in a time when even the house across the street has a camera installed at its entry gate. There is some crap being said about defaulted payment which halted the camera installation process midway. And all this while the matter is doing its rounds in court while the animals live unprotected in their cages.
Some say the dogs got in through a back gate. With the people who deliver goods at night. And at night-time of course, the security personnel deserve a good nap. “The chinkaras died in shock. They are a vulnerable species.” goes the lame excuse. Yes, right. It is the fault of the innocent animals that they didn’t have more courage and better weapons to fight the dogs off. In no way is the zoo responsible for overlooking gaps in the boundary and cracks in the cages. It is only now that the zoo officials wake up after four innocent chinkaras – currently one of the most endangered species – are dead.
What angers me beyond any limits is the attitude some people have. “Animals are meant to be preyed upon. They would have died sooner in a zoo.” How would these people feel if they were to be kept captive some place and murdered one night by gangsters? Oh the gangsters would smile and say: “You would die one day anyway. You may have died sooner in the tsunami your city just had.” No, it isn’t absurd. It is the fault of the inflated platform that some people keep themselves upon. They judge everyone else peering from there. Animals look tiny to them but they forget that they too can topple over with the next gust of wind.
There is talk of getting some more gazelles from another zoo. I can only hope that the new inmates are better protected. As is, they probably detest their life. Being put up on display for people to get entertained and evading the sticks that spoilt kids of spoilt parents throw. “Kids, you know.” the giggly parents whine. By the by, how do these people expect their kids to learn any civil courtesy when they go around throwing their dirty linen – literally – all over the place?
Zoos are an old-fashioned concept. They don’t convince me. All very well about taking your child to a picnic there but they leave me with a claustrophobic feeling. How would it feel if specimens of various types of humans were picked up and put in cages so their species could be inter-bred and others could be charged a ticket price for visiting? If at all zoos have to function, they should at the very least ensure their animals are safe. And alive the next morning!
I have a bad, if darkly funny feeling, that this massacre of sorts will be avenged. Every time I will look into the playful eyes of antelopes on television and watch them frolic about near a jungle pond, I will get the same feeling. If I were not so furious, I would be anxious.