| No lunch on Monday
New Delhi, July 22: Meena knows her lunch routine well. She expectantly prowls towards the feeding area around noon for her meal of rice and fruits.
But little does the 12-year-old Himalayan bear know that on Monday she may be forced to skip her lunch at Delhi zoo.
Reason' A hunger strike called by the zookeepers opposing the environment ministry’s move to make the zoo an autonomous body. The zookeepers expect to be joined by their “best friends”.
“We want the animals to join us in a hunger strike, for just one meal,” said Randhir Kumar, who feeds Meena and the other bears.
The keepers plan to feed the over 2,000 animals “extra” on Sunday night, but will not give them lunch on Monday.
This would be the first time zookeepers would be putting animals on hunger strike along with themselves.
“In the past, we have never deprived the animals of their meals. This time we are being forced to ask them to join us in our protests,” said Gurnam Singh, who looks after the tigers.
The zoo administration does not seem to know how to react.
Off the record, many in the administration too are opposed to the zoo being made autonomous. The zookeepers and members of the administration are afraid that once the zoo becomes autonomous, a funds crunch could lead to retrenchment. But officially, they said the “animals should be fed on Monday”.
“We cannot, however, feed all the animals. By the time we would finish feeding them, it would be time for their next meal,” said a senior member of the zoo administration.
Gurnam and his colleagues, in any case, plan to feed the animals at 5 pm on Monday, a couple of hours before the usual dinner time.
Zoo veterinarians said the animals would wonder why they were not given lunch, but missing a meal would not harm them.
“It wouldn’t harm them. They would just be more ravenous for the next meal,” said Dr Ramesh Mishra, who has been looking after the animals at the zoo for close to a decade.
Sick animals, such as seven-year-old Navela, a zebra suffering from a form of dysentery, will continue to receive special care. “We cannot even think of depriving them of their meals,” said Raju, watching two young giraffe siblings who neighbour Navela, as they chased each other around their mother.
The siblings, Tulsi and Ram, just over a year old, will also have a hearty lunch. “All the cubs, calves and babies will receive their meals,” said Gurnam.