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Joey ‘cover-up’ triggers protest

The Alipore zoo authorities have covered the entire enclosure of the 10-month-old kangaroo baby to “protect” it from stress and ensure that it does not meet an untimely death like its mother, triggering protests from wildlife experts who feel the move would do more harm than good to the joey.

The experts feel the one way to ensure that the zoo’s lone kangaroo has a long and healthy life is to shift the enclosure from beside a busy road, which exposes the animal to debilitating stress that can even turn fatal, to a quieter zone in the compound.

The zoo authorities decided to quarantine the joey in their desperation to prevent a rerun of the premature death of its mother and three other red kangaroos, all imported from the Czech Republic, within 13 months since July last year. The four died of a muscle ailment called myopathy, most likely triggered by constant exposure to chaos and stress.

“The joey’s survival is a challenge for us, especially because we could not save the four red kangaroos. So, we have decided to isolate the baby temporarily to prevent it from being subjected to chaos and stress caused by visitors,” said a zoo official. “Kangaroos are sensitive and even mild stress can lead to myopathy.”

Wildlife experts, including a few in the state forest department, are surprised that the most obvious solution — shifting the enclosure — has not occurred to the zoo officials.

“If the officials are serious about saving the joey, they could have tried the simpler option of moving the enclosure to somewhere deep within the complex where there is much less noise and chaos,” said Dipak Mitra, a wildlife expert and member of the state’s wildlife advisory board.

“The covered enclosure will harm the animal as it will have problems acclimatising to its chaotic surroundings and suffer more stress once the wrap is removed,” said a forest department official.

A senior zoo official admitted that they were not guided by any scientific advice in wrapping the enclosure. “It’s a precautionary measure. In the absence of scientific tips, we thought this is the best way to ensure the baby’s survival.”

Experts had earlier told Metro that a drain beside the busy Alipore Road, around 200 metres from the enclosure, is covered with an iron grille. “Whenever vehicles pass over it, especially at night, the noise and vibration disturb the animals,” an expert had said.