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Cash-strapped Chennai Zoo seeks help from animal lovers

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Chennai, June 16: Due to the raging pandemic at hand, Chennai's Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) is facing a severe crash crunch. Hence, the administration is asking everyone to support the animal adoption scheme, in order to enable the zoo to survive.

Representational Image

The authorities have also pinned hopes on the state government to provide funds also to meet the salaries of casual labourers apart from meeting the administrative costs and other increasing requirement for precautionary measures and medicines to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the animals.

'It's crisis time. Revenue became zero. Zoo depended last year on the government and CSR funds. The government provided Rs 6 crores towards meeting the cost for animal feed last year.

This year, a proposal sent to the government is under process,' a deputy director of AAZP said when asked if the zoo adoption could help tide over the crisis.

On the expenditure incurred by the zoo, the deputy director told PTI 'monthly we spend Rs 55 lakhs for feeding 2,300 plus animals, Rs 25 lakhs for our casual labourers salaries and Rs 10-15 lakhs for our infrastructure costs like water, electricity bills etc.' 'Literally, the revenue is 0 now from Rs 15-16 crores.

So you can imagine the loss!' he said.

Before the pandemic (in 2019-2020) the zoo had 130 animal adopters and it attracted a visitor footfall of 19,24,513.

The revenue from visitor ticket sales was Rs 14.3 crores.

During the pandemic (In 2020 - 2021) the number of animal adopters dwindled to 117 and so did the footfall to 3,95,124 while the revenue drastically plunged to Rs 4.7 crores.

There is nil revenue this year.

Normally, the zoo attracts 18-20 lakhs visitors annually and the Pongal festival holidays in mid-January and summer vacation lures several thousands of families.

On the measures being taken to promote the adoption programme, he said, 'we appealed through various social media channels, reached out to some CSR. We reached out to the press and media.' The AAZP official added that the animal adoption process has completely been made online to facilitate quick and transparent adoption.

And the response to the recent appeal for animal adoption programme has been overwhelming.

Over 200 people adopted the animals.

'This is the highest in the last few months wherein generally we have only 20-30 adoptions in a month, that too when the zoo is open,' he said.

Popular actors Vijay Sethupati and Siva Karthikeyan adopted the animals previously.

The zoo has 350 staff including permanent and casual workers.

While the permanent establishment salaries and vehicle fuel bills are taken care of by the government, the remaining expenditure including salaries of the casual labourers, feed, electricity bills, water bills, small works and developmental activities like enclosure maintenance, chain links etc., are met from ticket sales.

'It's actually a disastrous situation that we are now facing. Last year, we were open from November to April.

With some footfalls and some CSR help from Renault and SBI we carried out some work. HCL gave some money last year for feed under CSR,' the deputy director said.

'This year, right now we are still puzzled about the future and with the lion's Corona infection, things are getting a little more difficult now,' he said.

At present the zoo's full concentration is on getting the lions back without any further loss.

'The last death really pained us a lot. We can't afford to lose another one. Hope we come out of all this soon,' he said.

Of the fourteen lions presently available with the Zoo, 3 are responding to the treatment very slowly.

Seven lions were infected by SARS CoV2 virus while a lioness succumbed.

With PTI inputs

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