The Telegraph
Thursday , February 28 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, hiss of wonder spray to keep lion cubs safe
- Unique concoction of water, chemicals & neem oil to ward off venomous snakes at Tata zoo

The white cobra is dead, long live its scare.

The venomous 7ft snake that slithered into the Tata Steel Zoological Park South African lion enclosure on December 2, nearly killing Zoya and seriously injuring Salya and Ed before dying, has left behind safety lessons.

Now, Tata zoo is spraying protection on the regal quintet of Zoya, Salya, Kimu, Ed and Jumbo as well as tigers, leopards and sloth bears. The spray, with 60 per cent water, has disinfectant Bio-Clean, kerosene and neem oil as reptile repellents.

Carbolic acid, a common snake-repellent, is too corrosive to be used in an animal habitat.

The zoo management had also planned to light fires at strategic points to keep snakes off. But the plan was again shelved for animal safety.

The spray concoction seems to have the right balance, unpleasant for snakes but harmless for the animals in the enclosures or the surrounding ecosystem.

Tata Steel Zoological Society secretary P.R. Prasad confirmed the spray was safe for animals. “It is effective to prevent snakes from entering enclosures. We are using the spray in four enclosures right now,” he said, adding the disinfectant was procured from Calcutta.

“It seems the spray is working wonders. Fewer snakes have been reported inside zoo premises,” a caretaker said.

On the spraying drill, Prasad added: “The outer area of the enclosures and bushes areas inside get the spray treatment twice a week. We will reduce it to once a fortnight in due course of time.”

According to a source inside the zoo, preventive spraying was a long-term exercise and not a miracle-worker.

“To be honest, the entry of snakes can’t be totally controlled. But it can be lessened with constant vigil and various methods, including the spray,” the source, who did not want to be named, said.

That candour is a must to prevent complacency from sinking its fangs on zoo premises.

Bravehearts Zoya, Salya and Ed who killed the cobra would not like a rerun of the combat. Dona, the Royal Bengal tigress cub, for all her majestic stripes, would be petrified.

“Usually, snakes don’t attack animals. Adult animals are also wary of snakes or poisonous insects. But cubs are untrained, playful and learning things on their own. It’s like children playing with fire. They stop only when an adult tells them or when they get blisters. Dona, the cub tigress, has an edge over lions as her mother Shanti is around to tell her about possible dangers,” another zoo functionary said.

It would have been nice for lions had tiger matriarch Shanti adopted them as her surrogate cubs and taught them a few safety tips.

But that seems to be in the realms of animated Disney fairytales.

The zoo, meanwhile, is also pressing a fogging machine once a week to keep mosquitoes away. Hiss or sting, Tata zoo is taking no chances.

Is the Tata zoo doing enough to keep its exotic inmates safe? Tell