Fat to fit
Hyderabad, April 2: They are crowd-pullers and set ticket counters ringing. With so much riding on them, the denizens of Andhra zoos will have to do more to look good.
Binges will be out and fasting in under a “dieting program” drawn up by vets for the animals, much like stars and socialites who keep count of their morsels and weight.
The plan will kick off this week with the Tirupati, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad zoos, part of a larger drive to keep the animals, birds and reptiles in shape in summer when visitors throng the spots.
The programme, called “effective fasting” as it includes a day of fasting in a week, will cover over 3,200 animals from 150 species. It will begin with a “frugal brunch”, followed by spartan meals through the day. Pregnant and ailing residents have been kept out of the programme.
Birds, too, will not be included. “There is no fasting for small birds as they are very sensitive,” said Dr P. Srinivasa Reddy, veterinary assistant surgeon at Hyderabad’s Nehru Zoological Park.
A zoo official said several incidents of indigestion and related ailments in the animals in recent months had prompted the authorities to introduce the diet plan. “The regulations were not rigid and more meals than what was prescribed were often given to animals.”
Doctors said the diet rules had been prescribed by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). The regimen includes fasts and strict adherence to calorie charts. “The goal is to ensure that the animals, some of them from endangered species, are not hit by seasonal infections. The aim should to be to stick to food habits that are properly regulated and strictly monitored, the central guidelines say.
The CZA has prepared separate charts for animals, birds and reptiles. “The feed charts are more rigorous for animals than humans,” said a veterinary expert.
Zoo officials have sought the co-operation of visitors, too, in the drive by urging them not to feed the animals. “The visitors should do not try to feed the animals. We intend to put up boards around the zoos,” said the zoo official. The boards will say “fasting day today, don’t feed the animals”.
The zoo authorities have long banned public feeding but haven’t been able to enforce the rule often. Birds, rabbits and monkeys are the worst hit, officials said. Last year, seven animals, including an elephant, had died of illnesses linked to indiscriminate feeding by the zoo authorities and the public.
If eating right is the mantra, staying cool during the summer is also necessary. To help the animals beat the heat, some of the zoos have set up air-coolers, foggers and sprinklers, besides regular topping moats with fresh water. “We have special grass spread over bird cages which is watered regularly to cool the enclosure,” Reddy, the Hyderabad zoo vet, said.