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Adoption rush at Alipore zoo
- Celebrity to common man in race to sponsor caged fauna

TAKE YOUR PICK

Privileges now and later

People can adopt one animal or a family or an entire enclosure
They will get a certificate and an adoption card
Complimentary zoo entry pass
Can use photos of the animal in newspapers, magazines, websites
Can celebrate his/her birthday in the zoo
Participate in seminars and functions organised by the zoo
Publication of logo, name of institution and individual on a board near the adopted animal’s enclosure
Adoption amount is exempted under 80G of the income tax act
Any individual or group may be allowed to adopt an animal for 1, 2, 3 and 6 months or a year

(The list doesn’t include all animals up for adoption)

Yes ma’am, you can adopt an elephant! No ma’am, you cannot take it home for Ganesh Puja!

Calcutta zoo has been deluged with as many befuddling queries as adoption offers from prospective “foster parents” ever since it announced the launch of its adopt-an-animal scheme on August 4.

Members of an ashram keen to adopt an elephant walked into the zoo office on Wednesday to ask if they could occasionally take the animal out for religious events.

Zoo officials said they had a hard time convincing the group that adopting an animal did not guarantee the right to take it anywhere!

Then there have been others who have dropped by at the zoo in Alipore or the forest department office in Salt Lake with cheque books to adopt animals of their choice instantly.

“We have had people walking in, cheque book in hand, and asking: ‘How much for a tiger?’ Some insist that nobody else but them gets to sponsor a particular species. ‘The jaguar is mine!’ a visitor declared the other day,” said an official who did not wish to be named.

The zoo’s acting director, V.K. Yadav, said cheques couldn’t be accepted before the formal launch of the adopt-an-animal scheme. “In any case, formalities involving the income tax department remain to be completed,” he told Metro, which had reported the Alipore zoo’s plan to put some categories of wildlife up for adoption on July 25.

The annual adoption fee for a tiger — both Royal Bengal and white — and an elephant is Rs 1.5 lakh each. A spotted jaguar is apparently cheaper to maintain. The Central Zoo Authority has fixed Rs 50,000 (see chart) as the fee an adopter needs to pay for the lean, mean predator to be adequately fed and tended to in a cage.

Lata Bajoria, wife of the late jute tycoon Arun Bajoria, aims to “set an example” by becoming the first Calcuttan to adopt an animal at the Alipore zoo. The wildlife enthusiast, who runs an animal rescue centre in her home, said she would like to begin with a small animal “because it is a long-term commitment”.

“A marmoset or an ostrich or a fishing cat to begin with. Later, I can adopt more animals.”

Bajoria said she had always felt that the zoo was a “sad place”, but was delighted to see signs of change during a recent visit with friends. “My friends would talk about zoos in Bangkok and Singapore but never step into the Calcutta zoo. Now I see it is looking good with new trees and landscaping,” she said.

Ambuja Group chairman Harsh Neotia is planning to adopt a white tiger, as suggested by the zoo authorities.

“I am particularly happy to adopt the white tiger because I still remember the time many years ago when the white tiger had first come to the zoo.… There was so much excitement. As a kid, I used to often go to the zoo and the white tiger was a huge novelty for us,” Neotia said.

Vaishali Dalmiya, daughter of cricket administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya, has “booked” the zoo’s sole spotted jaguar for adoption “because they represent speed, something I like”.

Vaishali said: “About eight years ago I had approached the zoo authorities with such a proposal because I had seen it in Singapore and realised the fantastic possibilities. But it couldn’t be done because I was told that the central government’s permission was needed. So when I read about the scheme in Metro, I was overjoyed and went to the zoo to meet the officials…. I want to get involved in awareness programmes; I could go to schools and tell kids how important it is for us to see that animals are happy.”

Industrialist Sanjay Budhia and wife Minu, who is the founder-director of Addlife Caring Minds, are keen on adopting a one-horned rhino. Minu said the rhino reminded her of her childhood trips to Kaziranga and the ruthless poaching of the majestic animal. “This apart, we would certainly like to assist in any other zoo activity,” she added.

Social activist and wildlife lover Sundeep Bhutoria said he had sent an application in advance to the zoo authorities to adopt a tiger, lest all seven of them at the zoo get adopted by somebody else.

“I had written to the forest department officials a long time ago to introduce an adopt-a-tiger scheme in the national parks or the tiger reserves. I have written a book (to be released soon) on 13 tigers in Ranthambore. I have spotted 43 tigers during various trips to the wild so far. I think it’s important for individuals and corporate entities to come forward and support the government in saving these animals,” Bhutoria said.

Since he wants to adopt a tiger, his favourite animal, Bhutoria hopes there is one left for him to sponsor. “There aren’t too many tigers at the Calcutta zoo and if there are too many takers, I hope they allow two people to share one tiger,” he said.

Acting director Yadav held out hope for those like Bhutoria. “Our main aim is to involve as many people as we possibly can and I admit that we will have to redesign the scheme a bit. There have been several enquiries, certainly over 100. And among them many have urged us to include other animals like the deer and certain birds and also allow a monthly adoption scheme. We have to rethink all this after the kick-off on August 4,” he said.

Sandip Sinha Roy, owner of Data Search India, is in the race to be the first to adopt an animal. “I had already confirmed with the Zoo Authority to adopt a leopard (and trust this would be officially announced on August 4 @ Crystal Room (Taj Bengal). I am hopefully one of the first or may be the first to do so,” he said in an email to Metro.

The adopted leopard would be “a birthday gift” for Roy’s eight-year-old daughter. And he is so excited about the idea that he has decided to next adopt a zebra for his wife.

“We see nice, well-placed enclosures and top-notch maintenance in zoos abroad. These can be implemented in our zoos once we overcome the funds shortage. If I can make a small contribution by adopting two-three animals, I am happy,” Roy said.

Sanjay Goel of ONGC said the company would announce its choice of animals by August 4. DJ Akash said he would prefer a macaw or an ostrich.

Zoo officials said they had approached the “Bengal Tiger” himself, Sourav Ganguly, for the adoption scheme but the former cricketer would be out of town on the day of the launch. Elder brother Snehasish confirmed that he had received a call from the zoo but said he hadn’t decided whether to adopt an animal.