A day after a pair of lions killed an unidentified man at Chhatbir Zoo, the zoo authorities on Monday constituted a Special Investigating Team (SIT) of forest officials to thoroughly probe the incident. Field Director, Chhatbir Zoo, M Sudhagar spoke to Jagdeep Singh Deep regarding the current security arrangements at the zoo and his future plans to avert repeat of any such incident in future.
What have the zoo authorities done to find out how the man entered the restricted area?
We have constituted a Special Investigating Team (SIT) headed by me and comprising zoo officials. The SIT shall find out how the man scaled the perimeter wall and entered the restricted area of the lion safari. Our team is also coordinating with the Zirakpur police to identify the man who got killed. We have also lodged a complaint on charges of trespass against the man.
What steps have been taken to ascertain the deceased’s identity?
Despite all our efforts, the victim has not yet been identified. Our employees checked in the nearby villages and areas in the vicinity of Chhatbir zoo to ascertain if there was any man missing. But we have not got any success yet. One of our employees told me that a few days ago, there was a wedding function going on in a nearby village community centre and a shabbily dressed man who was barefoot entered the venue. He was, however, pushed out of there by the guests at the wedding. There is a possibility that this man who entered the lion safari could be the same one. It appears that the man must have been mentally unstable. Otherwise, there is no reason for him to have entered lion safari. On the other hand, if the man was sane, there could be a possibility that he entered restricted area with some ulterior motives.
It is a serious incident of security breach too. What are you doing to ensure that such an incident is not repeated?
Yes, indeed, it is a serious incident. We shall be raising the height of concrete portion of the perimeter wall of lion safari, deer safari and elephant safari to completely block the view from outside. We shall also install more CCTV cameras and increase patrolling outside on the kutcha road on the other side of the perimeter wall. This is the same road from where this man supposedly entered the lion safari. Mainly, the zoo staff only carries out the security duties. But after this incident, I feel that we should strengthen our security arrangements. Although our rescue team promptly responded after we learnt about the man’s presence in lion safari, a proper security apparatus is required to be put in place.
Does the zoo have adequate staff?
Currently, there are 110 permanent employees, including officers, zoo keepers and class four employees. We also recruit around 100 to 150 employees on a temporary basis during peak season, which is summer and winter vacations in schools. We shall again analyse how many more staff strength is required for additional security duties and other related works at the zoo. Accordingly, we shall place our requisition to the government.
When is lion safari going to be opened to visitors again?
Although the zoo shall be opened to visitors on Tuesday, the lion safari will remain closed till we complete our probe and do a security audit.
How are the two lions behaving after attacking a human?
Both the animals were not normal after the incident as they both are zoo-born and had not encountered a human being like this earlier. Our doctors are also regularly monitoring both Shilpa, the lioness, and Yuvraj, the lion, to check if there is any significant change in their behaviour after Sunday’s incident. We had a tough time in pushing Shilpa back to its enclosure. It will take a few days before the pair of lions get normal. Only after we are satisfied with their behaviour that we shall reopen the lion safari. Currently, there are four lions, five tigers, seven leopards and one jaguar in the zoo.