Ahmedabad zoo architect Reuben David remembered on 100th birth anniversary

Even 24 years after his death,the zoologist has his ‘presence’ both in the zoo and in people’s heart.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published:September 20, 2012 4:20 am

Even 24 years after his death,the zoologist has his ‘presence’ both in the zoo and in people’s heart

With time and changing government norms,one of the oldest zoos in the country — the Ahmedabad zoo — might have witnessed major transformations but one can still feel the ideology and presence of its pioneer,Reuben David. From the zoo staff who had worked with David to his family members and even zoo visitors,all remembered him on his 100th birth anniversary on Wednesday.

“One cannot deny and stop architectural changes from taking place in this zoo. There was even a time when there were talks of shifting this zoo to some other place. This place is my father’s karm bhoomi who had given his entire life in making this zoo happen. Till the time I am alive,I will fight to preserve his ideology and his karm bhoomi,” said daughter Esther David on the occasion of launch of a book on Reuben David,originally authored by her and now translated in Gujarati. The launch took place in the zoo premises.

Sharing some of her experiences with David,Esther expressed pride in having him as her father. Taken inside a lion’s cage at the age of fourteen,Esther clearly remembers the confidence David had in her and the animal. “I was afraid but David did not have even slightest of fear. Not only he took me to the lion’s cage but also left me alone there with the animal for a while. Anybody who has worked with him or seen him with the animals believe that he had certain ‘magical powers’ that would tame even the wildest of animals without any assistance or weapon,” she added.

The zoo staff who had worked with him,even after more than 24 years of his death,revere him and remember him as one of the rarest human beings. He was an inspiration for all.

“There has been nobody like him and unlikely will be in future as well. His favourite place was the log hut where he would spend some time when he was not with the animals. Among the inmates of the zoo,Montu (lion),Emily (chimpanzee) and Raju (tiger) were his favourite. Even these would not let him or his car pass by their cages without stopping there for a while. We still remember his words that the two-legged are more dangerous than the four-legged,” said Ranjit Singh Jadeja,one of the oldest staff members at the zoo.

David was an inspiration for all. Not his love for animals and nature was admired but also his fighting spirit. He lost his speech due to cancer but never gave up. “The doctors gave him three months but he lived for 20 years. He never believed in defeat. He learnt esophageal speech and would talk for hours. People from far off places would come to see how a man has fought against cancer,” said Esther.

On his 100th birthday,the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Mayor Asit Vora and Commissioner Guruprasad Mohapatra also shared some of the instances from Reuben’s life with the audience and school children.

Zoo future plans for visitors

While for the last three years,the zoo officials are trying to get a pair of giraffe,some of the changes that are expected in the near future at the zoo includes a nocturnal zoo within its premises,a three level aviary section for birds,better enclosures and a breeding centre for Asiatic lions.

To be first in the country,Ahmedabad will have its nocturnal zoo with three layers or topography. The ambitious layout plan has been designed in such a manner that it will take the visitors underground,on the ground level and an aerial experience for better view and feel of different kinds of nocturnal animals and birds.

The Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI) has given in-principle approval to the AMC’s proposal. The final layout plan of this nocturnal zoo based on the lines of one in Singapore will come up in an area of 2 acre with an estimated budget of Rs 6 crore.

“Planning is also going on for a three level bird aviary. After three years,the birds aviary will be completely different. It will be divided into three levels,each for ground,medium and high fliers. The birds will have an access to fly to a 40-50 feet height,” said Dr RK Sahoo,the zoo superintendent.

Similarly,the zoo authorities are working on the priority of providing better enclosures for animals. This is also aimed at following CZAI guidelines that are revised from time to time. The star attraction among visitors these days is four anaconda snakes that the zoo received as a gift from Sri Lanka’s national zoo. “As CZAI had clearly banned  buying of animals and only gift or exchange can take place between two zoos,these anaconda were gifted last year by Sri Lankan government on our visit there,” added Sahoo.

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