The Telegraph
Thursday , November 29 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tata zoo’s wild lessons for Kerala

How can you keep langurs entertained inside their enclosure? No, you don’t need a stand-up comic, you need wooden structures that keep these natural gymnasts busy climbing, rolling and stretching.

This was one of the top tips that Tata Steel Zoological Park shared with a 13-member team of zookeepers from Kerala — comprising employees of Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur zoos — at a four-day animal management training session that concluded in the city on Wednesday.

“This is the first time in our 18 years of existence that we are conducting such a training,” said Tata zoo director Bipul Chakravarty.

But there was no first-time jitters as the Kerala team led by curator T.V. Anil Kumar learnt from Tata zoo experts about aspects of wildlife care, including restraining and transportation of animals, enclosure enrichment, disease and disaster management as well as hand-rearing of infants.

The Tata zoo team of experts included director Chakravarty, his deputy and vet Manik Palit, curator S.K. Mahto and assistant vet Nidhi Rajput. While they took care of the theory lessons, often aided by slide shows, caretakers chipped in with practical demos inside enclosures under the watchful eye of vet Palit.

From determining sex and breeding emus to treating leopards with skin diseases, the slide shows covered an astonishing variety of topics.

Basics such as quantity and quality of food for animals, sanitation in enclosures, provision of water and medicines were also not neglected.

Demonstrations included makeshift wooden gym for langur enclosures that kept simians in rollicking form and customised bamboo nest boxes to keep small birds snug.

Both theory and practical lessons left the audience impressed. As did interacting with exotic species such as the five African pure-bred lion cubs from Pretoria and colourful mandrills, imports from Jerusalem last year.

“We are highly satisfied with the training sessions. In fact, it was better than what we underwent at Mysore zoo last year,” said Thiruvananthapuram Zoo curator Kumar.

Asked about lessons that stuck, he reeled them off.

“We haven’t bred ornamental pheasants but what we learnt here will be very helpful. The wooden structures inside the langur enclosure were really smart. We have put plants inside ours, but langurs can have more fun swinging from sturdy wooden structures. We’ll get a carpenter to replicate them,” Kumar said.

The curator added that it was a policy of the Kerala government to send zookeepers for exposure trips across the country. “We learn a lot from the best practices of others. They keep us on our toes,” he smiled.

Tata zoo director Chakravarty said they also learnt a lot by teaching visitors.

Taking study breaks, the Kerala team also visited Birsa Munda Biological Park in Ranchi on Tuesday and Jamshedpur’s Centre for Excellence and Sai Temple on Wednesday.

Can Jharkhand take a lesson from Kerala on exposure visits?