A soft spoken Executive Director of Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, popularly known as Mysuru Zoo, S Venkatesan is more concerned about conservation of forest and creating a healthy environment for animals and to avoid man-animal conflicts.
Speaking to City Today, he expressed his commitment to serve the wildlife and society by bringing about a harmonious co-existence. For the record, Mysuru Zoo is one of the best managed zoo in the country and has the best overall service in terms of visitors experience and counted one among the top animal friendly zoos in the country.
Considering the free and unbounded life of wild animals, what do you think about imprisoning animals in limited areas like in a zoo? For instance, usually a tiger wanders across kilometres and establishes a wide territory. Moreover, the zoo environment restricts the breeding habits.
I don’t agree with your point. The zoo is more comfortable than forests for wild animals. For instance, tigers in forests probably live around 12 years. But in a zoo, they live up to 20 years. We are not just focusing on wild animals to create a better visitor experience. We also improve their living standards so that they can live longer.
We provide sufficient food and provide the best breeding atmosphere. The environment of Mysuru Zoo is the best for all animals and we are coordinating with 13 zoos in the country to facilitate animal exchange and we have many examples of captive breeding. Our every step is closely watched and we cannot go against norms.
We have a well-equipped veterinary hospital where all the species of animals and birds get treated by expert doctors. There are many animals that are the victims of man-animal and animal-animal conflicts and the zoo is an ideal place to shelter and nurse the injured. Our pro-animal measures have made Mysuru Zoo to bag the Numero Uno position in the country.
Do you have any problems in procuring beef following the ban and even several right wing activists have demanded strict implementation of the ban?
We have no such problem. Whatever menu we have prepared for all herbivorous and carnivorous animals are provided as per rule and there has been no scarcity as such. As the zoo is established in 1892 and it has its own name and reputation, we have no issues in food supply. There are eight zoos in Karnataka and ours and the one in Bannerghatta in Bengaluru are the biggest. As all the zoos work in coordination and under directions from the Zoo Authority of Karnataka and monitored by present Secretary Abhyu Singh. Moreover, the previous Executive Director M R Ravi who served four years has done lot of work in standardising maintenance process. I am just continuing his initiatives.
What initiatives have been taken on conserving environment?
We need about six lakhs litres of water per day for maintenance. We have a self-generating system of water by utilizing Karanji Lake that is attached to the zoo. In addition there are three ponds where used water can be reused after its natural filtering. We have been improving greenery and there is a special focus on that. And the zoo premises is three degrees lesser than the outside temperature. Visitors can experience cool breeze inside. Moreover, the entire campus is plastic free zone and even visitors are made to understand the importance of plastic ban. We do check plastic bottles that the visitors carry inside and take a nominal charge. We return their money once they show us the bottle while returning. This is to ensure that plastic waste is not discarded indiscriminately inside the zoo.
What are initiatives taken to create awareness among people, especially students and younger generation on protecting wildlife and curb man-animal conflict?
Apart from holding annual summer camps for children we conduct a lot of lectures on conservation inside the zoo where we invite expert speakers. We organise our annual Youth Club activities from July to December 2016 on Sundays between 10 am and 1:30 pm. The selected students will be exposed to various activities related to zoo education and wildlife conservation. Their knowledge will be upgraded regarding the varieties and values of wildlife and captive management of wild animals.
Hailing from farmer family at Karaikal in the Union Territory of Puducherry, S Venkatesan pursued B.Sc in forestry in Forest College and Research Institute in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore. He completed his M.Sc in Agriculture from Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore and completed his IFS in 1999.
He has got three years of professional training at the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy in Dehradun. He was appointed as the Range Forest Officer at Shanivarsanthe in Kodagu in 2001. Later he was appointed as the Assistant Conservator of Forests in Chennagiri Sub-Division, Bhadravathi and was promoted as Deputy Conservator of Forests where he served for social forestry in Karwar.
Venkatesan has served as Deputy Conservator of Forests in Bhadravathi, Koppal, Shivamoga, and Chikkamagalur before he was promoted ad Conservator of Forests in Mysuru. He also served as field director in Badhra Tiger Research Institute, Chikkamagalur.