'Fund safety' for keepers in Asom zoo

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Guwahati, Apr 18 (UNI) Though 'skill' mainly determines how safe a zoo keeper is when he enters an animal's cage, the staff of the Asom state zoo have come together to assure the keepers that if anything was to go wrong, he had them to bank on.

As incidents of attacks and injuries regularly occur in this zoo, the staff have pooled money from their salaries to form a welfare fund, which bears the expenditure of treatment in case of injuries.

The incident of a crocodile biting off the forearm of a keeper in a Taiwan zoo a week ago had again brought forth the safety measures for keepers when attending to the animals.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) N Mahanta said, '' We had formed a welfare fund some three years back, to which all the staff contribute monthly. This money comes handy whenever any contingency arises.'' The state government has a mechanism for reimbursement of the treatment expenses, but since the money is needed urgently, the welfare fund is the surest resort for the employees of the state zoo.

'' Moreover, the money granted from the fund for the medical expenses is not taken back, so that the employee does not have to face any financial burden even at a later date,'' he added.

While no major accidents have occurred in the state zoo in the recent past, incidents of minor injuries are many, the DFO informed.

He said in a recent case, a monkey had bitten off the flesh from the back of the palm of a keeper, resulting in paralysis of his lower arm.

'' With the money provided from the welfare fund, he underwent plastic surgery and after proper rehabilitation, his arm is functioning normally again,'' Mr Mahanta added.

Mr Mahanta, admitting that safety of the keepers was a major concern, said, ''It ultimately comes down to the skill and alertness of the keeper. He should be able to gauge how a particular animal behaves from his association with it.'' ''The basic safety measures, like locking the animal before entering the cage, not moving to places in the cage which could enrage the animal, should be strictly adhered to,'' he added.


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