Why do you say zoos in India are slaughterhouses?
We have 64 zoos-another 194 are small or medium zoos-and in these zoos some 10 to 15 per cent of the animals die every year, which means that 15,000 to 20,000 highly endangered animals die every year in zoos across the country. This is worse than what poachers do.
We have no animal-friendly zoos. In the West, zoo architecture is a highly-specialised profession. Here we have cages for nocturnal animals that are open on all four sides, making it impossible for the animals to sleep during the daytime. That puts them to so much stress that a large number of animals kill themselves by repeatedly battering their heads against the bars of their cages. Sixty per cent of the animals in zoos have marks on their heads from this continuous ramming against the bars. If the architecture is wrong, then everything else is wrong about the zoos.
The Central Zoo Authority was set up by me in 1990 to train people, to give funds to zoos, to help them breed endangered species. However, it has done nothing.
One of the problems faced by all the zoos is overpopulation. No space or funds for so many animals...
Thats because 50 per cent of the animals in zoos shouldnt be there at all. They should go back to the wild. Why should we keep nocturnal animals in zoos, when nobody can see them during the daytime? Why keep ducks, mongooses, peacocks, goats, vultures, camels in zoos? If these animals are returned to their environment, you can make more space for the animals that are endangered. Besides, why cant they charge more for entry ticket? Rs 100, or at least Rs 10? You dont even get a packet of peanuts for the price of a zoo ticket.
Is privatisation the answer?
(West Bengal governor) Viren Shahs son came up with a proposal to take over the Delhi zoo. But they wanted to make money by turning it into a mela. Private or government, the answer is a separate zoo cadre.