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Roar for help! Zoo in a hospital

A famished “royal” has come to fix his eyes, doctors were busy with three orphaned “triplets” and half-a-dozen fidgety adolescents even as 250 plumed patients called out in varied pitches for attention.

Quite a busy day in hospital, eh? Well, the Alipore zoo hospital near Taj Bengal hotel across the road has never had such a rush of patients.

It has started to resemble a wing of the zoo, housing an almost blind Royal Bengal Tiger from the Sunderbans, three baby chimpanzees, six marmosets and 250 birds that were rescued last week from a house in Baguiati.

The hospital, the only one of its kind in the state, is bursting at the seams. A consignment of geckos seized by Calcutta police last month had to be moved to the doctors’ chamber to make way for those who need immediate care.

The animals from the Baguiati house have been quarantined at the hospital.

“Wildlife laws stipulate that any animal or bird brought into the country has to be quarantined or kept in isolation for a specific period of time to make sure they are not carrying infectious diseases,” zoo veterinarian D.N. Banerjee said.

Customs and forest officials on Wednesday evening rescued the chimps, the marmosets and more than 20 species of exotic birds — Blue Yellow Macaw, Grey Parrot and Oriental Pied Horn — apparently smuggled into the country from Brazil and Africa through transit routes in Hong Kong and Bangladesh.

The zoo hospital is the lone facility with expertise and equipment for treating wild animals.

The two veterinary doctors at the hospital are monitoring the animals every three hours. They said all the animals were keeping well and responding to medication.

“The baby chimps have been given balls to play with. They are literally having a ball. The marmosets are active too,” said a zoo official.

The tiger, transported to Calcutta on Friday evening, is keeping the vets busy. “Preliminary investigation reveals that he is suffering corneal opacity (a cloudy spot in the cornea that can lead to vision loss). He is very weak because poor vision restricts hunting in the wild. He probably had not eaten for a long time until he was rescued. We are trying to bring back his strength with a healthy diet and medicines. Once he regains his strength, treatment of his eyes will begin,” Banerjee said.

The two-storey hospital has a pathology lab, an air-conditioned operating theatre and USG and X-ray machines.

“We do immunisation and deworming programmes time to time. Meat for the big cats is checked every day,” Banerjee said.

Last June, a Royal Bengal returned to his forest home after an 11-month treatment at the hospital. He was down with malnutrition and deep wounds. In 2011, the zoo jaguar had a successful surgery in which doctors removed a 2-kg tumour from the belly.

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