Around 200 metres away, 30-year-old Akanrhawa, with his pants rolled up to the knee, is feeding bananas to Heera Gaj and Lakhsmi.
New Delhi: The Delhi Zoo has started using heavy-duty desert coolers, toofan fans, glucose, and ORS to help its 1,200 animals beat the scorching heat on the 176-acre National Zoological Park.
As the mercury rises to 43°Celsius, Vinod Kumar (28) picks up a hosepipe and walks into the night house where Tipu, Sita, Geeta, and their 8-year-old mother Kalpana are kept in separate steel cages.
“It’s time to give them a bath to keep their body temperatures down,” the contractual employee, tasked with taking care of the family of white tigers, says.
Even as the mercury soars to 47-48°C during peak summer inside the night house, where the big cats are kept in steel cages, two large heavy-duty desert coolers and four toofan fans whirl non-stop to maintain the ideal temperature between 25 and 35°C for the animals, he says.
“It’s a comfortable 30-32°C inside while it could be 40-41°C out in the open,” Mr Kumar says, as Sita saunters into a large wire mesh cage ready for the bath.
“I bathe them three-four times a day. Besides, I take care that they are not overfed as a light stomach helps deal with the heat. Their food is rationed, only 10 kg red meat per day in summer. Normally, the felines get 12 kg,” the caretaker says. The animals also get glucose mixed with water before their meal. It helps them cool off.
Around 200 metres away, 30-year-old Akanrhawa, with his pants rolled up to the knee, is feeding bananas to Heera Gaj and Lakhsmi. “The elephants have 8 kg bananas for breakfast. Around noon, the tuskers get green fodder. In the evening, after the zoo closes at 5.00 pm, they get khichdi,” Mr Akanrhawa says.
The zoo has four leopards kept in two cages, each with a large desert cooler and two fans. Their caretaker, Sridhar, makes sure they get water after every half hour. The big cats get 6 kg red meat, their only meal for the day, around noon.
“We reduce their meat intake by 2 kg in summer so that they can hold more water in their stomach and don’t feel dehydrated,” he explains.
“My leopards consume 1 kg glucose a week. I also mix ORS in their water to deal with electrolyte imbalance due to excessive heat,” he says.
The zoo’s curator, Riyaz Khan, says the workers stick to a diet chart prepared by experts for summers.