Security beefed up in city zoo
23 Dec 2007, 0307 hrs IST,TNN
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KOLKATA: The mauling of a visitor by a couple of big cats at the Guwahati zoo on Wednesday has sent alarm bells ringing at Alipore zoo. Since Friday, zoo authorities have beefed up security to keep prying visitors at bay.
Additional private security guards have been deployed at the zoo to manage the winter crowd. More policemen were seen at the gate, too. Friday being Eid, a public holiday, people thronged the zoo in large numbers.
The zoo authorities were clearly unwilling to take any chances. Though accidents here are rare, they are not unheard-of. In 1996 and 2000, two men had been mauled to death by tigers at the zoo.
Though zoo director S K Chowdhury denied making any major change in the security system, he acknowledged that more securitymen were on duty. "We have increased the number and assigned them specific duties. Guards have been posted at vulnerable points to ensure there is no mishap," he said.
However, there was no guard present outside Sunderban, the enclosure for a Royal Bengal tiger like the one in Guwahati, where a 50-year-old man was mauled while attempting to get a close shot. Here, visitors tried to draw the tiger Krishnakant's attention by sprinkling water and throwing coins.
A section of the zoo staff brushed off the alert as a knee-jerk reaction that follows such sensational incidents. "Every time there's an incident, security is beefed up. The alertness remains for a while before the situation drifts back to the usual slackness," said a guard.
Even before Wednesday's gory incident in Guwahati, zoo authorities had been harried by two chimpanzees that had escaped from their enclosure a week ago. Zoo officials blamed visitors for provoking the animals and making it difficult for the staff to recapture the chimps.
"The visitors behave outrageously. They tease animals and provoke them. We could have easily captured the chimps had the crowd not pelted stones at them," an official said.
At the white tiger enclosure, visitors were seen making strange gestures at Anirban, a tiger, and Krishna, a tigress. "Even educated people behave foolishly. Though there is an iron barricade around the tiger's cage to keep visitors at a safe distance, they still stretch out their hands to take pictures. They will even jump the barricade if we aren't alert," said Chowdhury.
Visitors, however, rubbished the allegations and said the zoo authorities were blaming them to hide their own shortcomings. A family from Jadavpur, which visits the zoo every winter, said guards were never near the cage. L Bhutia, a tourist who had come from Gangtok, felt the number of attendants were inadequate for a zoo of this size. "Animals don't even have enough space to move around and the hygiene is very poor," he added.
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