Coolers, sheds, mangos…beating summer blues at Delhi Zoo

By Prathiba Raju, IANS,

New Delhi : The coolers are on as are the water sprinklers. Bread is off the menu and kheer, melon, cucumber and ayurvedic medicines have been brought in. Delhi Zoo’s 1,300 inmates are set to chill out this summer.

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“We take special care of the animals and birds during summer so that they do not develop summer blues or illnesses,” N. Paneer Selvam, the zoo’s veterinary officer, told IANS.

“We have placed coolers and fans inside animal enclosures. Usually pneumonia, typhoid and heat strokes are common among the animals in summer. So regular check-ups are carried out,” he said.

Temperatures in Delhi could touch 46 degrees Celsius during summer, making life uncomfortable for the animals.

“About 80 coolers have been installed for various enclosures for maximum air circulation. The coolers are usually provided to the Himalayan black bear pair and cubs and white Siberian tigers which are from cool climes. Even lions, leopards and chimpanzees are provided with fans, coolers and sheds for a peaceful afternoon nap,” Riaz Khan, the zoo’s curator, said.

Water sprinklers are working round-the-clock in the enclosures to keep the animals wet and cool. For enhanced cooling, moats around animal enclosures are filled with water so they can take dips to beat the heat.

Apart from that, a summer diet chart has been prepared for the animals, with more glucose and fibrous food.

“When the temperature goes up, the metabolic rate of the animals goes down. Therefore, the animals have reduced appetite. For example, the meat intake of lions and tigers is reduced by 2 kg. Usually, lions consume 8 kg of meat a day. Now it has been reduced to 6 kg. The meat intake of tigers has been cut from 9 to 7 kg. We are also giving them lots of glucose water,” Selvam said.

Monkeys, deer and other inmates of the zoo, who usually munch breads and rotis, are now getting kheer (a milk and rice preparation). Fruits such as watermelon, muskmelon and cucumber are also being given.

“Monkeys are naughty. As soon as they see us bringing fruits, they feel so happy that they jump. They love melons, cucumbers and watermelons…but their favourite is the mango,” a zoo keeper said.

As for the birds, they are being given regular doses of ayurvedic medicines to reduce summer stress.

“The birds cannot tolerate too much of heat. They can collapse. As a precautionary measure, we give them ayurvedic medicines. We have also placed agro light sheets in their enclosures to restrict the entry of sunlight,” Selvam said.

A new batch of migratory birds including Asian koel, black-headed ibis, brownheaded barbet, yellow crowned woodpecker, Indian grey hornbill, bulbuls, mynahs and parakeets have come here from across the country.

Snakes, which have been in hibernation, are being treated with rats and rabbits.

Spread over an area of 240 acres, Delhi Zoo houses over 1,300 species of mammals, reptiles and birds, including many which are endangered. The leopard cat, Indian rhinoceros, hippopotamus, blackbuck, Indian gazelle and lion-tailed macaque are among the animals found here. It also houses nearly all the varieties of deer found in the country.

(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at [email protected])