A partly uprooted sal tree rests on another near the enclosure of Durga and Sugreev at Birsa zoo on Sunday
Call it pure divine intervention.
As Phailin’s peripheral current tore through parts of Jharkhand, goddess Durga wore her sobriquet of durgatinashini with remarkable aplomb, saving the animal planets of Ranchi and Jamshedpur from the monster cyclone that made landfall in Odisha on Saturday night.
Winds at over 50kmph — the peak strength of the tempest was four times more in the neighbouring state— swept through Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ormanjhi, 15km from the capital, from 6.45am on Sunday. The gale force uprooted half a dozen robust sal trees near the tiger enclosure in an hour, but the goddess’s namesake and her partner Sugreev escaped unscathed.
Unlike Ranchi, Phailin did not leave any trail of destruction at Tata Steel Zoological Park in Jamshedpur, although the country’s lone private animal turf did grapple with heavy rain and inundation. Contingency plans saved the leopard family from drowning.
Life limped back to normal at both zoos by Tuesday morning.
“Maa Durga came and went on a thunderous note, but she ensured that Durga, the tigress, and her family were safe,” a senior official at Birsa zoo heaved a sigh of relief.
Said vet Ajay Kumar: “Gale winds felled a huge sal tree right next to the tiger enclosure. Fortunately, the uprooted tree landed on another of its ilk instead of crashing on the big cat chamber. Had that been the case, the animals would have sustained grievous injuries or might have found an escape route too. The result would have been total chaos.”
Zoo director A.K. Patra conceded that the Phailin’s peripheral effect had wreaked havoc with the park’s ecology. “But, we are so glad that all inmates are safe. We had recently released the hyenas into a new enclosure in the south-eastern fringe, but luckily brought them back to their old home in the nick of time — precisely before water from the Rukka reservoir flooded that area,” he said.
“We were alert from the beginning and had been following news very closely. Though the zoo is well within safe limits, yet we were prepared to meet exigencies,” he added.
Patra maintained that water had receded from the park by Tuesday and the last vestiges of the cyclonic storm — uprooted trees, ripped branches, et al — were being cleared from the premises. Footfall too, he insisted, was back to normal.
“Normally, the zoo is always crowded on holidays, but the weather played spoilsport this Durga Puja. However, wildlife enthusiasts are thronging the premises again. Tomorrow (Wednesday), we expect heavy rush because it is an Id holiday,” the zoo director was bullish.
In Jamshedpur, water from a swollen Subernarekha had gushed into Tata zoo through the Jayanti Sarovar outlet following downpour early on Monday. The 13ft nullah, which feeds the lake within the zoo premises, began spilling from 4am and soon flooded the leopard enclosure.
But, Tata zoo already had foolproof safety plans.
Zoo director Bipul Chakravarty said that since flooding was routine every monsoon, they have two-tier animal enclosures, besides a fleet of boats — both motorised and paddle — for relief and rescue.
“The three adult leopards (Mithun, Sheeba and Dipu) and the two cubs (Albatross and Satya) were safe in the upper tier till water receded in the evening,” Chakravarty said.
“Besides, a five-member disaster management team, led by field supervisor Susen Mahto, maintained round-the-clock vigil in vulnerable areas during the storm,” he added.