The Madras Crocodile Bank in Chennai, which is home to 17 species of crocodiles and 2,000 reptiles, is facing severe financial crunch after the nationwide lockdown triggered by the coronavirus halted the flow of the visitors to the park. .
Allwin Jesudasan, the director at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, said revenue from ticket sales has been nil since mid-March 2020. The bank, which is the country’s biggest such facility, was established in 1976.
“Pre Covid-19 times, the ticket revenues used to be 50 per cent of our total revenue. If the zoo was open during the last six months, we would have generated a crore through ticket revenue. During this period, we used to get around 30,000 visitors each month,” he said in an email.
The crocodile bank has appealed to the general public to donate funds to keep it running. According to reports, the senior staff members took a voluntary pay cut to ensure that the animals are taken care of and maintenance at the park continues as usual.
In April, the trust opened a fundraiser to keep the facility functional. Jesudasan says this is the first time that the bank appealed to the public and the response has been overwhelming. “Several individuals have contributed and gave important leads to companies who further contributed through their Corporate Social Responsibility programme.”
In August, tech giant HCL stepped in to help with animal feed and provide salaries to caretakers involved in sanitation and maintenance for six months.
“HCL contributed to a six-month project that aims on building the resilience of the crocodile bank. We have been focusing on diversifying the income streams so that we are not so dependent on ticket revenues in the future. Feeding and upkeep of animals is also an important part of the project,” Jesudasan added.
As part of the resilience building, the bank is running virtual tours of the park for the first time. People can book for such virtual reptile encounter programs by writing an email to email@example.com
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While it awaits visitors, the bank is undergoing some renovation. Through corporate funding from Coromondal, some enclosures have been remodelled. There are also two new species on display – a slender-snouted crocodile and a Cuban crocodile. The bank has put in place adequate safety measures to check temperature of visitors and provide them hand sanitizers. There are also information boards to emphasise on precautionary measures in view of the pandemic.
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