Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wildlife Week: Zoo-keepers honoured.

Tuesday October 9 2007 09:15 IST
Express News Service

Thulaseedharan, Rajendran and Saji.

T’PURAM: They have seen terror staring at their face. They have had many a close shave with death. Living with the wild 365 days a year is no easy job for the animal-keepers at the city zoo. Precisely the reason why five of them were honoured on Monday at the concluding ceremony of the Wildlife Week at the zoo.

Thulaseedharan, Saji, Rajendran, Vimalan and Sukumaran Nadar are the five zoo-keepers who received the awards from Minister for Culture M.A. Baby.

Rajendran and Sukumaran Nadar were honoured for rearing the leopard cub Sheena, Saji and Vimalan for taking care of the lion-tailed macacques and Thulaseedharan for taking care of the tiger cubs.

Thulaseedharan stands out among the five, for he holds the record for handling the notorious rhinoceros ‘Ramu’ for a maximum of four-and-a-half years. ‘‘Ramu is the name in the records. But I call him ‘Kashi’ and he responds to the name wherever he is,’’ says Thulaseedharan, who has been serving the city zoo for the last fifteen years.

Ramu had been in the news for all the wrong reasons — for goring his keeper Vijayakumar and his mate Rita to death. ‘‘I don’t know what triggered such reactions, but we used to be good friends,’’ says Thulaseedharan.

On his daily work, Thulaseedharan says: ‘‘Maybe this is the only zoo in the country where the rhinos are oiled to prevent the cracking up of skin.’’ He even used to give Cadbury’s chocolate and five-star bars to the rhino. ‘‘Kashi loved to lick all the sweets and toffees,’’ Thulaseedharan adds.

Each keeper is given the charge of handling one animal for one year. Right now, Thulaseedharan handles the tigers, giving them food and medicines and sometimes even changing cages. He is a favourite with one-year-old tigers Manikantan, Manu and Ganga, while their mother Karishma is quite naturally jealous.

If the tiger-mother has a problem, the lion-tailed monkey- mothers are all happy with their keeper Saji, who helped them deliver their young ones. ‘‘A unique feat as lion-tailed macacques do not usually breed in captivity. Saji was given the award for this and rearing the young macacques,’’ says Abu, zoo superintendent.

Saji shares the award with Vimalan as the two of them were responsible for the rearing of the little monkeys.

Source: http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEO20071008225427&Page=O&Headline=Wildlife+Week%3A+Zoo-keepers+honoured&Title=Thiruvananthapuram&Topic=0

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