Death in the Delhi zoo—‘Beast’ vs. the Beast

When even animals are embarrassed by humans.

By Rajiv Theodore

NEW DELHI: It was a tragedy waiting to happen. But somehow, there nothing to mourn about it. The raucous youth who got killed by a white tiger had his last fling with the animal kingdom.

Indian White Tiger (Photo by Dileep Thekkethil)
Indian White Tiger (Photo by Dileep Thekkethil)

Delhi and most of its denizens have the least apathy for animals and this is glaring if you ever visit the zoo or the zoological gardens as the 74 hectares of prime forest land in the center of Delhi is called.

“To inspire amongst zoo visitors empathy for wild animals, an understanding and awareness about the need for conservation of natural resources and maintaining ecological balance,” is one of the preambles adopted by the gardens which was set up in 1955 amidst a very urbane Delhi. This has never ever taken up for practical purposes as this latest incident shows.

The incident took place Tuesday when a 20-year-old in his prankish best toppled over into the enclosure of a white tiger while presumably teasing the six-year old Vijay.

The inevitable did happen in front of hundreds of onlookers. The tiger stared at the fallen youth who was cowering with folded hands for almost 15 minutes. It then took a swipe with his huge paws and then dragged him nonchalantly into the interior of the enclosure, where he took the youth’s life.

The TV channels flooded the air-time crying hoarse that the zoo-keepers did not come to the rescue, as if they could have done something in such a scenario. Yes, somebody could have fired a dart gun loaded with tranquilizers, but then this is India and most zoo keepers have hardly any training in crisis management at this level. Instead, the zoo keepers and a rabid crowd were busy shouting and pelting stones to drive away the tiger away from the boy. This, many onlookers say, angered the tiger further, who took an extreme step.

But then the fault lies squarely on the insensitive, cacophonous, brash, uneducated public visitors who throng the zoo six days a week, except for Mondays when the poor animals get a break from the menace of the human ‘beasts’. At any time you could catch these ‘beasts’ pelting stones, making loud noise, clapping, mimicking, and gesticulating at the animals. Even the zoo denizens must feel embarrassed at the uncouth behavior.

Hopefully, the tragedy at the Delhi zoo is a lesson well learnt, to respect animals and behave in surroundings which need to be monitored by a bunch of professionals. There should be a crash course for visitors on how to walk and talk inside a zoo.

And, to always remind visitors that at a level-playing field, a human is never a match for the animal, even in captivity.

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