In older times, animals and birds were kept in cages- menageries for combat sporting and also as a status symbols. Slaves were also sometimes caged along with the animals.
The term Zoo comes from Zoology, the study of animals – the animals being kept in parks, in a habitat similar to their own. Also, since humans have and continue to destroy their habitats- jungles, wetlands and hunt and destroy several species, many of these are now extinct or on the endangered list. The surviving members are kept in the zoo to safeguard them and allow them to breed in relative safety. Zoos also serve to sensitize people to the plight of the animals.
However, it has been found that animals in the zoos are highly stressed, breed with difficulty, have a shorter life and their normal instincts are blunted. These captive animals, whose instinct is to hunt and eat, sometimes, refuse the provided food. Because of the restricted movement, they can become bored, aggressive or develop abnormal behaviour- often harming themselves. Coming in contact with humans, they may also develop human diseases and spread organisms harmful to humans which results in these animals being culled. The standard of care provided to these animals depends on the honesty and dedication of those responsible for their welfare.
Some visitors to the zoo treat the ani
mals as voyeuristic objects despite strict warnings.
These days we have Safari Parks, Animal Theme Parks and Petting Zoos.
A few years ago we visited the National Zoological Park in New Delhi, situated near the Old Fort. Inaugurated in 1959, it houses 130 species of birds and animals. It was a beautiful foggy morning in December, so most of the animals were hibernating but we were lucky to watch the migratory birds. Majority of the visitors were appreciative of the privilege of seeing these magnificent creatures but a few thought their trip was wasted because they couldn’t see the animals ‘in action’.
I had forgotten to charge the batteries of my camera, the battery ran down exactly at the moment that the sleeping python decided to poke its head out of his hiding place. I did get some lovely pics and the memories are sweet- crows and mynahs taking their share from the feed of the inmates!