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Despondent in captivity

RAJAT GHAI: ‘For years, Lakshmi, 64, and Anarkali, 56, have been standing there almost like a figurine, bound by chains and isolated in individual cramped, concrete enclosures. The pool nearby keeps leaking and holds barely enough water for the giant Asiatic elephants to wallow and keep themselves cool. In a nearby cage, a rhesus macaque with contagious mange is freely mingling with other monkeys, at times scratching its rear vehemently against the rusted enclosure, oblivious of the fact that it can lead to severe tetanus infection. At one corner, over two dozen deer huddle in fear with barely anything to graze on. The picket gate that takes visitors dangerously close to striped hyenas remains tied with an old rag cloth.

Welcome to the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo of Mumbai. Located in the city’s southern neighbourhood of Byculla, it is one of the country’s oldest zoos, dating back to the 1860s. While the authorities have managed to retain the grandness of its entrance, the zoo is being increasingly described as a “killer zone” with mammals, birds and reptiles dying in care. Media reports show over 480 inmates have died at Byculla zoo since 2010. The list includes exotic and protected species like emu, finches, hippopotamus, penguin, African grey parrot, a lioness and crocodiles. In 2016-17, it was left with 388 animals’. SOURCE…

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