The newest entrants to Byculla zoo, the Humboldt penguins, have attracted a large amount of public attention. First, is the novelty factor – although the idea was panned in the beginning, bringing them to Mumbai was certainly a novel idea. Then, of course, came the controversy about their survival after one of them died in the prolonged quarantine period.
Just a few days before the opening of the exhibit, this paper had warned in its editorial column that while the zoo authorities and the BMC had taken their fair share of criticism, it is now up to the public to display etiquette and steer clear of any boorishness when it comes to visiting the penguins.
It was a shameful Sunday when Byculla zoo was swarmed by 25,000 Mumbaikars, giving way to utter chaos. It was not enthusiasm but aggression and desperation that were evident among the mob, eventually leading to the closure of the exhibit. People broke barricades, climbed walls and, for a few tense minutes, threatened to spark into a stampede – all this to get a chance to catch a glimpse of the penguins for free.
This kind of behaviour from adults is unacceptable. Pushing people and vandalising property just to get into the zoo and see penguins is infantile, to say the least, and dangerous at worst. With kids and families in tow, things could have gone extremely wrong.
It is shocking that visitors cannot queue up in a civilized manner. Even if the gates shut before closing time - and this was caused because of the crowd's aggression - they have to simply accept the fact and make their way home. Violence will not achieve anything.
This kind of lack of decorum, respect or empathy does not equal enthusiasm or curiosity; it is only lout-like behaviour.