The next time students of Rustomjee Cambridge International School walk into the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivali, unlike regular visitors, they will be there to meet their “pets”. These students are the first ones in the city to have adopted a wild animal, in this case spotted deer, from the national park and the school’s name will now feature outside the spotted deer’s enclosure.
The state’s Forest Department had in January issued a government resolution that allows people to “adopt” a wild animal that lives in enclosures and those in the safari (bred in captivity) at SGNP. The national park sent a letter to the Dahisar-based school last week, making the adoption official.
Being frequent visitors at the park, the Dahisar schoolchildren had heard of this proposal in August last year. Next thing they did was to shoot off letters to all parents expressing their interest in adopting a wild animal. “When we visited the animals, we knew instantly we wanted to adopt them. The spotted deer looked slightly weak to us and we wanted to take care of them,” said Heer Shah, the head girl.
“It feels special to have a wild animal as a pet; an animal that lives in a good habitat and we take care of them,” said Sanjana Dhamankar, the captain.
Since January, the student council has been collecting money from students ranging from nursery to Class 12. Seeing their enthusiasm, the school chipped in an equal amount for the adoption.
“Every year, the students collect and donate money otherwise used to buy flowers and gifts for their teachers on Teacher’s Day or for a cause close to their hearts,” said Tanya Valecha, the school principal. “Last year, the students collected money for cancer-stricken people.”
“The schoolchildren are the first ones. An initiative like this coming from children is a great thing. Their act can enthuse others into adopting as well. As deers are part of the zoo, large groups coming to see them wouldn’t be a problem. Enquiries from others are mainly about the bigger wild cats, but we have not received any forms yet. For the big cats, special visits have to be arranged,” said Vikas Gupta, chief conservator of forests, SGNP.
Around 15 people have taken the adoption forms and we have received some calls asking for details, said S D Saste, assistant conservator of forests, SGNP.
Up for adoption are five lions, three white tigers, six tigers, 24 leopards, 5 rusty spotted cats, 32 spotted deer, 2 blue bulls and one barking deer. The money will be used only for feeding of the animal and the person adopting will be allowed to visit the caged animal once a week during a stipulated time free of charge. In case of a large group adopting a single animal, special group visits will be arranged, Saste added.