Saturday, May 17, 2008

Visiting katraj

was a heart-crushing experience.

I don't consider myself to be a "animal-lover". Honestly, I like plants better. But various kinds of living beings are fascinating aren't they? Observing them tells you so much about them. Just the royal expression on the face of a leopard when he is seated in his territory, or the way tiny fantails flutter around putting their backsides on display :-P

The very reason I was so excited to visit a "zoological park" situated so close to pune where I currently temporarily reside. Katraj is just a little better than the normal zoos we see around. The animals are not in their natural habitat, but they r not in cages either. They have their confined area that is internally lined by a deep furrow so that prevents the animals from escaping. When I was entering the "Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park", little did I know, I had my hopes too high. I expected to see variety, I would be honest, which I got. But the animals were in pain, even though the zoo officials failed to recognize that. Seeing sloth bear was educating, but the poor fellow trying his level best to cool his body in the dry heat in pune by sitting in the 1 feet deep minute water clearing, was saddening. No effort was done to plant some trees around the water reserve, to provide the endangered tropical species with some shade. I can't erase his expression from my mind. His rigorous effort to get some cool breeze in him lungs made me feel helpless. Worst, there were people all over, prompting him to do the "stunt" all over again. I guess he lost interest in humans who know just to point and chose to walk off undercover near his buddies. I couldn't look at him for more than 10 seconds, yes, I am sensitive towards fellow species.

Next in line, the legendary black bucks. Big herd, impressive horns, beautiful environment in which they were placed. BUT, just 1 male with 20 odd female counter-parts :-| Moreover, he seemed least interested in any other female and just kept chasing a particular one. Ask zoologists the reason for that :-P

Crocodile lying like there has been a drought, with its limbs facing the sky and a hopeless expression on its face. Turtles, cute, but too little water enough for a group of ten caged in a cage entitled "Indian python" :-| One white tiger in one corner of a massive cage, not willing to show himself to the interfering humans. Vultures, grand! but in a large cage. Worse, eagles in a cage disappointing.
It was supposed to be specially a snake park, but few species there and all of them repeated. Many glass boxes, empty, bearing just the name-tag and a plastic plant planted on the dead soil. Some snake species that has appreciable population, kept in open cemented deep chambers, that has living plants and water. And people feeding these snakes with "biscuits" :-| Yes, not everyone knows what a particular animal consumes, but snakes and Parle G?

People who were with me are hardcore zoology students and had been to nature trails and spotted tigers with their cubs in their natural habitat. According to them, this was no fun. Maybe they are right, but what has remained of our fellow species? what are they, a mode of entertainment? In sanctuaries, snake being held given to hold in hand and people fascinated to wind pythons around their necks [in strict supervision of an expert]. What has become of these mighty consumers? ornaments? People treating a leopard like it were a street dog. I, in no-way support people shooing dogs, but a "choo" to a leopard?

Well, some experiences will last with me forever. Like seeing the male black buck running around his territory and the beauty in the eyes of the females belonging to the same species. Some members of the cat family, royal that they are. The best experience being watching two cobras face to face, with hoods open. We were too spellbound to capture the thing in a photograph, well, photography wasn't officially allowed. Then after some time of looking into each other in the eye, one stuck the other and both of them gave up.

One amusing incident that happened while in the zoo. One small bridge that connected the zoo had a stream flowing and around it was covered by trees. We live in a area that has too many bird species and we love to hang around in the balcony trying to identify various kinds of birds. Kruttika, who is kinda good at it, has enlightened me about the presence of so many types of birds around. Well, she was unable to identify just one species among the few we saw and as these are local to pune, they were in there in katraj too. While crossing the tiny bridge, she spotted the bird and called all the rest of us to try and identify it. We were six of us, I being the least aware of kinds of species, still, interested. All the six of us, started trying to spot the bird and as I was among the first ones to see it, started pointing it out to my friends. Now, the bird was small, and camouflaged, and a native! When we stood along the bridge and started to point at something, about 30 odd people crashed onto the bridge looking at all possible directions and pointing at all possible things. We, interested in just the bird, did not recognize the situation. It was when we got aware of a man convincing his kids of some random rock to be an animal that we realize of what was actually happening around and chose to quietly walk off, just to burst out laughing a minute later. True, people will do anything that looks cool, without even trying to analyze the situation.

We went boating in the lake to have a look at the normal fauna of the area. The maynas and tailor birds, locally inhabited in the forests were more fascinating, coz they were free! So, why weren't the other species allowed to be on their own? Who gave us the right to captivate them? To isolate them form their habitat and point fingers on them and ask them to act our slaves?

Can anything be done about this?