Sponsors, heed call of the wild Nandankanan seeks more animal adopters

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By LELIN KUMAR MALLICK
  • Published 3.10.12
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Bhubaneswar, Oct. 2: Animal lovers in the state have taken to adopting animals at Nandankanan zoo. Individuals and corporate organisations have adopted more than 70 animals of the zoo since an animal adoption programme was introduced in 2008.

Odia actor Chandan Kar became the newest adopter last month when he began bearing the cost of a one-year-old tiger cub named Bijaya to mark his 31st birthday.

Visitors to the zoo turn adopters for various reasons. While some do it to express their affection for animals, others find it a noble way to get a tax exemption.

“Once when I had gone to the zoo with my family, my kids wanted me to buy a pair of macaw birds that they saw there. Since I knew that the animals could not be bought, I contacted the zoo authorities who informed me about the programme. During the one year of adoption, my children have developed a special bond with the birds. Since then I’ve had to take them to the zoo frequently,” said Nitesh Goenka, who has adopted the macaws — Srishti and Prakriti.

Goenka was the first one to adopt under the programme.

Those who adopt animals in the zoo are entitled to get an adoption certificate and benefits under section 80G of Indian Income Tax Act, said director of Nandankanan zoo Sudarshan Panda. The name of the adopter is also displayed on a special board at the zoo.

Under the programme, one may adopt any of the 125 species of birds, mammals and reptiles that call the zoo their home. While the minimum amount required for adopting the animals is Rs 500 (budgerigar and munias), the highest rate is Rs 2.3 lakh (Indian elephant). One has to pay Rs 1 lakh for adopting a single white tiger, a Royal Bengal Tiger or a lion. The amount is spent on the animal’s food, medical care and maintainence or development of their enclosures. The sponsor can visit and check the use of funds. According to the provision, one can adopt any wild animal for a period of one year and this contract can be renewed.

Animal adopters feel that the zoo authorities should put up advertisement boards inside the zoo to create awareness among the visitors about the programme.

“I have suggested to the zoo authorities to distribute leaflets and put up banners to inform more people about the adoption programme. The process is absolutely hassle free,” said tiger Bijaya’s adopter Chandan Kar. He said that some of his friends were also keen to be a part of the programme after he adopted the tiger cub.

However, officials at the zoo said that so far the animal adoption programme has been a low-key affair. The programme titled “Adopt an animal” was launched in October 2008 with an aim to create awareness for wildlife conservation, but it has not garnered the kind of response the authorities expected. Zoo authorities said they had tried to contact a large number of corporate houses, Odia movie stars and cricketers but most of them did not show much interest.

Just 21 animals were adopted in the launch year. While most of the adopters were individuals, only a single nationalised bank made a notable contribution by adopting four animals by paying Rs 5 lakh. Only 50 animals have been adopted in the past three years.

Zoo sources said the adoption programme was run in several zoos of the country, the most successful being the Mysore zoo because of the involvement of former Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble.

“More people would be attracted to adopt animals at Nandankanan if someone iconic from the state was associated with the programme here,” said a zoo official.

Director Panda said that the zoo authorities can’t force anyone to participate in the programme. “More corporate houses should come forward to participate in the programme. We are in constant touch with some of the celebrities as well to be a part of this initiative,” said Panda.