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To stay safe in zoos, don't provoke animals

On Tuesday morning, a white tiger killed a 20-year-old man identified only as Maqsood in the New Delhi zoo. Reports state that the man climbed over a fence and fell into the protective moat around the tiger. He was in the tiger’s lair, to the shock and horror of onlookers. The zoo authorities state that the man had ignored warnings from the guards as he was too close to the protective fence. Eyewitnesses claim that the young man was leaning precariously over the fence and fell in. There may be conflicting reports, but one thing is certain that the young man flouted rules, defied authorities and paid a tragic and tremendously high price.

It is time people stopped being so foolhardy as to actually go into animals cages. Even in Mumbai, zoo visitors are seen flouting rules. They regularly ignore guards who warn them not to stray close to enclosures, and are ignorant by choice about an animal’s capability to do them grievous harm.

Some time ago, a man was killed by an elephant in the Mumbai zoo. He was drunk and once again strayed into the animal’s enclosure. While zoo authorities, no doubt, will think how to increase the efficacy of response to such situations, people must understand that the onus is on them to be responsible and respect laws governing zoos. Teasing, taunting, laughing and disturbing animals in the zoo is sadly routine behaviour. Maybe zoo authorities can think of imposing fines on those who flout rules. Yet, this is easier said than done as making noises and teasing fall in a grey area. Also it may be difficult to prove who exactly provoked the animals. Zoo officials can better educate their staff about any appropriate response to such incidents.

However, in the end, it is up to the visitor and nobody else to ensure he is safe when visiting zoos. The white tiger mauling has horrified the nation. Yet, it is the man who is to blame for wandering into the lair of a wild animal. After all, a leopard never changes his spots and a tiger never changes his stripes.

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