mid-day editorial: Don't flip out at the penguin exhibit

Nearly eight months after their arrival, the Humboldt penguins will finally get their moment in the Mumbai sun, beginning Saturday morning.

The penguin exhibit at Byculla zoo will be inaugurated this evening, and will be open for public viewing from tomorrow morning. The tuxedoed birds are called Bubble, Olive, Flipper, Daisy, Popeye, Donald and Molt, and are aged between two and three years. We anticipate huge curiosity and substantial numbers going in to see the penguins, given the hype ever since the flippers came to Mumbai.

Their lives have been under media scrutiny since the death of one of penguins - a female, Dory - which was blamed on poor quality of care by the authorities. While we have a penchant for blaming the authorities, this is an opportune time to look inwards and assess visitors’ behaviour at Indian zoos. Despite notices not to feed animals, visitors throw food into the enclosures and often endanger themselves by sliding their hands through the bars.

The Mumbai zoo has notices everywhere warning visitors not to tease the animals. Yet, we see children and adults trying to provoke the creatures, by making faces at them, yelling and knocking on their cages. There have been so many attempts to enter certain enclosures. We are not even going get into loud conversations on mobile phones.

It is time to clean up our act, and not display such boorish behaviour at the penguin exhibit. Knocking loudly on the glass, trying to scare the penguins or trying to damage the exhibit in any way is not on. Children must be monitored by their parents or school authorities, but it would be myopic to leave out adults, who are often the worst offenders. Ridiculing the authorities is easy, now it is time for us to look into the mirror and check our zoo manners too.

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