New Delhi: It was “curiosity” and “inquisitiveness” that brought many visitors to the Delhi zoo Wednesday, a day after a white tiger mauled and killed a 20-year-old youth after he fell into the animal’s enclosure.
Many visitors IANS spoke to agreed that it was only after they heard and saw footage of the goose bump-inducing incident that they decided to visit the zoo and see the tiger that “killed the youth” Tuesday.
“I belong to Lucknow, and it was only after I read about yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) incident in the newspapers that I decided to come to the Delhi zoo. Otherwise, this trip was not planned,” D.C. Gupta, a visitor, told IANS.
Echoing similar sentiments, Mukul Chopra, a resident of Mayur Vihar in east Delhi, said his family decided to visit the National Zoological Park in central Delhi after they heard about the incident.
A guard at the zoo told IANS that though the zoo always sees “good rush”, more people came Wednesday.
“The rush, especially after yesterday’s incident, is only going to increase as people are curious about the tiger,” the guard, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.
The buzz at the zoo was about the white tiger named Vijay who killed 20-year-old Maksood after he fell into the animal’s moat.
Vijay’s enclosure had the maximum crowd Wednesday, with curious visitors wanting to have a look at the wild cat.
Many called out his name when they saw another white tiger sitting in the enclosure. There are 11 tigers — six white and five Royal Bengal.
Vijay, officials said, will be kept under observation and was fine.
“He has been doing absolutely fine, but we will be keeping him under observation for the next four to five days. However, until now he has not shown any unusual behaviour,” said zoo curator R.A. Khan.
He also insisted that Vijay was not a maneater as he was born in captivity.
However, all visitors agreed that there was a “lapse” on the part of the zoo officials who they said “did not act in accordance with the gravity of the situation”.
“Look at this fencing, it is hardly of any height. Even a child can cross such barricading. A tiger is a ferocious animal and requires better fencing around its enclosure. Such barricading is equivalent to having none,” a visitor who did not wish to be named told IANS.
The tiger’s enclosure is guarded by a three-tier fencing comprising a three-feet-high metal fence, a shrub area and finally a cemented wall – which extends up to the enclosure’s moat area.
Agreed Pallavi Vishwakarma, who suggested that the height of the fence should be above the average Indian height.
“After watching the video yesterday (Tuesday), there was only one question on my mind. What was the zoo authority doing? Fifteen minutes is a lot of time to take action. They should deploy at least three guards and increase the fencing,” the 30-year-old Vishwakarma, a resident of Faridabad, told IANS.
However, Khan said “all cages are fit” and it is the visitor’s fault that he jumped into the animal’s enclosure.
“We have a protocol that is followed, but the guards did not get a chance to do so as it takes nearly 10-15 minutes. The animal (Vijay) killed the man in less than five minutes,” Khan said.
“The only option we had was to call the animal back inside his cage by making noises, but it was too late by then,” he added.
On being asked about using tranquiliser guns, Khan said the guards posted at the enclosure were not equipped with the guns as they were “costly and can be misused”.
“We have two such guns and those are kept in our medical room which is half a km from the tiger’s enclosure. But it takes time to first load the gun, give it pressure and then finally shoot. And even after the animal is given a tranquiliser shot it takes nearly 10-15 minutes for it to take effect,” Khan told IANS.
On raising the fencing around the enclosure, Khan said: “If we increase the barricading, then the public would complain that they cannot see the animal.
But visitors are clearly not convinced.
“They can at least keep a dart gun with them. Such incidents can then be dealt with efficiently,” Mayur Vihar resident Chopra said.
The National Zoological Park, located in the centre of the capital and one of the oldest in the country, is spread over 176 acres and is home to 1,556 birds and animals. The Delhi zoo sees a footfall of 5,000-6,000 on weekdays and 15,000-17,000 on weekends.