The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zoo jumbos struggle to quench their thirst
- DRINK at the brink

Phulwanti and Mumtaj lumber to the edge of the moat, desperate for a drink. As Phulwanti stares longingly at the muddy waters way below, Mumtaj is not to be denied.

She bends over the edge, almost to the point of toppling over, till she can sink her snout into the sluggish stream, before rocking back with a snort of relief and a spray of delight. Phulwanti, Uttara and Kiranraj — all hit by an acute water crisis — take heart and follow suit.

The last fortnight has seen the four elephants at Alipore zoo surviving on only a few buckets of water. This, when each needs around 40 litres of water a day, says mahut Mohammad Islam. “The problem started nearly 20 days ago. We get drinking water from a bore-well in the zoo. Not only has the supply been erratic, the water tank has developed a crack,” explained Islam.

Though the mahuts reported the problem, no action was taken, as zoo director Subir Choudhury was away attending a conference. Sushanta Bhattacharya, standing in, claimed: “We were informed two days ago and repairs have been made.”

The ground reality hardly reflected repairs, as the water source remained dry over the weekend. The muddy moat tells another sad story of neglect. “I have been working here for 25 years but never seen my elephants go without water like this,” said Islam.

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