According to Wikipedia, captive breeding, (as done in zoos) ‘facilitates' biodiversity and helps in saving certain species from extinction. I'm not trying to be an insufferable know-it-all (that's Wiki's job and yes I like Harry Potter), I just like to get my facts right(and apparently, Wikipedia is the best, PS: Jimmy Wales should be paying me for this). Anyway, this fact might be right in the case of many a zoos as I havn't seen any, except the National Zoological Park aka the Delhi Zoo and they, by the looks of it, certainly don't know the definition of captive breeding.
People usually go to the zoo in order to see God's greatest creation till date (no not humans, there are enough of them outside a zoo) - Animals. From the time I was a mere child of 4, I was fascinated with animals, specially the Predators. I used to watch National Geographic relentlessly as soon as I could differentiate between a Fox and a Piñata. Seeing the animals on the idiot box always gave me happiness, for me it was a world of beauty, away from the plainness of the humans (for people who contradict me here, do compare a photo of an animal, say a leopard or a tiger, with a human being, any human being, and then read the sentence again).
Ok, so this thing, I guess I really should have written sooner, but me being, well me - the all time sloth, postponed it like hell and now I feel guilty about it. Anyway, the whole thing started about 3 yrs back, when me, my mum and my friend had gone to visit the NZP. For all those who don't know, Delhi Zoo is situated near the Old Fort, on Mathura Road (applause for choosing such a brilliant location for the zoo). The NZP boasts of around 130 species of animals and birds spread over a vast area of 176 acres. I hadn't been to the zoo since I was 11, so this was something I was looking forward to with outmost excitement (and by excitement, I mean jumping around and eating everyone's head kinda excitement) and so we set out. We reached there, parked the car, and by the looks of it not much had changed, the ticket was still Rs 10/- per person and the entrance gate still had the old world charm about it.
So we stepped inside and were immediately greeted by various plants covering the stair area. We climbed down and we could see on our right hand side the director's office surrounded by greenery and a large water body in front it, and then we turned to our left. My first reaction was ‘Is it still the same place?' the board on the enclosure said ‘Neelgai' so I thought I was still in the zoo, only I really couldn't see any sign of a Neelgai there. Then someone shouted, ‘Woh raha, woh raha', and we all looked to see that the only Neelgai there (yes one and only, apart from the dogs that were roaming around in the enclosure of course), who's enclosure didn't even contain a single blade of grass, was drinking water from a little drum. I thought maybe I was mistaken and that their natural habitat was supposed to be like this one only (minus the dogs).
But the further we moved the more heart-wrenching the sights became. I know for a fact that animals such as the hippo, tiger and bear need a lot of water as compared to other animals, but these were the precise enclosures in which there was not a drop of water (unless u take into account the algae covered pool portion in the tiger enclosure where a drop of water or two might have existed). There was no grass no shade for the animals to rest in. The black buck enclosure was overcrowded, there was an injured black buck in the enclosure, limping about and being bullied by others and what ever they were being fed, looked suspiciously like saw dust.
The trees in the giraffe enclosure were bare and again (surprise surprise), there was no water in the enclosure. The migratory birds's pool stunk and the caged animals like the leopard (yes, in a cage) and fox's enclosure looked and smelled as if they hadn't been cleaned in years.
That day was a really bad and a sad experience for all of us. Seeing the conditions of the animals had us in tears at the end and we nurtured a common hatred towards the Director of the zoo outside whose office the whole water was being diverted (yes, the ‘large water body' that I mentioned before is where all the water was being diverted to).
Me and my mom decided to file an RTI petition, but somehow never ended up completing it.
The next year however I decided I should go again with my friends and this time I took my video camera with me. Optimistic as I am I thought the authorities might have come across some tiny bit of shame at the very bottom of their lil hearts and that they might have tried, atleast tried to change the situation. How wrong I was to assume that these morons might have a conscience. If anything, the situation had worsened. The number of bears in the sloth bear enclosure had come down to from 7 to 4, people were standing on the edge of the white tiger enclosure and teasing and shouting at the tiger who was just strolling about (I had a very strong urge to throw that person into the enclosure, THAT would have kept others quite and the tiger would have had a hearty meal). Anyway that didn't happen as I wasn't very keen on going behind bars at such a young age and I really didn't want the tiger to die of food poisoning either, but the way people treat the animals there, will really irritate and anger any animal lover. (They should really increase the ticket prices, otherwise any aira-gaira can come to the zoo.)
And the director's office still continued to be the way it was, abundant with greenery and water.
I even sent the pictures I had taken of the first trip to the NZP to a HT correspondent with my and my friend's names and contact numbers and she said that she'd have them printed soon, her ‘soon' still hasn't come.
It's just sad to see these beautiful creations of god being treated this way just because they can't speak up for themselves.
I have already made a minute and a half long video for my diploma course but the footage is pretty shaky so now I am planning to make a proper documentary about the conditions of the zoo with the help of my friends and I think another visit to the Delhi Zoo is in order this year. I am hoping against all hope that this visit might be better than the last two.
This is the Sloth Bear enclosure
The Injured Black Buck
Food for the black bucks
And this was taken outside the director's office.