Small croc found in pool early Tuesday, next-door marine zoo in the spotlight
The crocodile after it was rescued. Pic/Ashish Raje
Turbulence and trepidation ruled on Tuesday at the civic-run Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Olympic (MGMO) swimming pool, next to old Mayor’s Bungalow, Dadar-Shivaji Park. At approximately 4:30 am, pool staffers who were carrying out their daily inspection of the pools in the complex (there are four), saw a small lizard-like creature, roughly two feet in length floating in the 50-metre pool.
It was snared by a pool net and brought out, “And it was only after we felt its rough scaly skin that we realised it was a crocodile,” said filter plant operators Santosh M and S Das. The early morning discovery whirred on social media and swimming pool WhatsApp chats. The crocodile, when this reporter visited the pool, was kept submerged in a plastic barrel in manager Archana Deshmukh’s cabin. Deshmukh said, “Our staffer Das also got a small bite to his hand.” Das said, “I was bitten when I held up the crocodile for media pictures. Though this is a baby crocodile, the bite was like a shock. I was sent to Sion Hospital and given an injection.”
The staffers said it was fortunate that the crocodile was caught before the pool opened at 6 am. “We opened at the regular time after it was caught,” said Deshmukh. “We have informed the Forest Department.” The manager has barely completed a month at this complex but did say that she had heard of some incidents where snakes had been found in the pool complex. A staffer said, “Our members are suffering. We are responsible for their lives.”
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Sandeep Deshpande was seen interacting with the media next to the pool. Fingers were pointed at a Marine Aqua Zoo next to the swimming pool and there were accusations that the crocodile had escaped from there and made its way to the pool. A staffer said, “I hear they put snakes around their necks to show visitors.” The party made its way to the Marine Aqua Zoo.
Filter plant operators Santosh M and S Das who spotted the crocodile; (right) the Marine Aqua Zoo next door to the pool
As the pool management, a police officer, MNS leaders and press entered the Marine Aqua Zoo, there were a few geese walking around and the party had to actually hop over carefully. Cages held birds and rabbits. There was also a reptile enclosure. The manager Amaan Khan and owner of the zoo, Yuvraj Moghe, insisted that the crocodile was not from their zoo. “We do not have a crocodile so how can it have escaped from our zoo?” asked Khan, as the press was taking pictures of the wildlife. Khan was heard telling Moghe, “Let them take pictures, when we have not done anything wrong, why should we be afraid of anybody taking pictures?” Khan claimed they run a “legal zoo”. Deshpande was heard asking if they have all the documentation but the zoo management insisted all papers were in order. Tanmay Joshi, a volunteer at the zoo, said, “We are wildlife rescuers, animal lovers. Several people even give us animals which we keep here, to educate visitors, the general public. We are visible on social media. If we were illegal, would we go public on social media?”
The zoo staffers and management said it was jealousy that could have led to this. “We had rescued a crocodile roughly 1.5 months ago and returned it to the forest department. So, out of spite, or to stop us from doing similar work, somebody could have released a croc in the pool complex to bring action against us,” said Moghe and Khan. Joshi stated that this could be some nefarious design, “To ensure we close down and this space be taken over for a political outfit’s office. There are definitely many people eyeing this prime space,” he explained, as Khan agreed. Moghe said, “We have a Supreme Court order that says nobody should create any obstacles and allow us to run our project and enjoy our premises. Who can be higher than the Supreme Court?” he asked. The police on site claimed they will investigate. We witnessed Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) staffers at the zoo too, soon after. An SGNP employee said they were there, “If any help was needed by the range forest officer for the rescue.”
A pool member claimed, “Maybe sharp CCTV surveillance will show us how and from where this croc entered the pool. It is just fortunate that a disaster was averted.” There were plenty of messages expressing horror and shock on social media with questions being asked about the management. A senior member said of the ‘Crocodile Dundee’ morning, “This shows what we have already been stating, that membership fee hikes are on the incline but the management and upkeep is on the decline.”
Time the crocodile was spotted inthe pool