Bangalore: The king cobra that lazes in a fort-like enclosure at the zoo in the Bannerghatta National Park, just outside this city, has a new patron saint. And, fittingly enough for the Indian tech capital, he is a code-jock.
Sushrutha Nadig, a computer engineer at a local unit of Hewlett-Packard Co., provides for the feeding of the king cobra, whose diet includes other non-poisonous snakes and lizards, by shelling out Rs5,500 every year.
Nadig, 25, has also adopted an Indian Russell’s viper, the earth-coloured poisonous snake, and a pair of jungle fowl at the zoo. Both the zoo and the park are run by the Karnataka forest department.
On a visit to Bannerghatta last November, Nadig—an aspiring wildlife protection officer—found that the park allowed individuals and corporations to adopt animals and birds for a fee. The average cost is arrived at based on how much it takes to feed a bird or an animal. And in return for their cheques, patrons get their names put on a board outside the enclosure of the animal or bird they adopt.
Nadig has paid Rs10,000 to adopt the animals. That includes Rs3,000 for the Russell’s viper and Rs1,500 for the jungle fowl.
“I found this the easiest way to contribute for animal welfare,” said Nadig, who gets multiple entry passes for five people in a year to the park, a 109 sq. km habitat for tigers, lions, bears and deer, just 15 km south of software development centres of IT majors such as IBM Corp., Infosys Technologies Ltd and Accenture Ltd.
But for the park, which started its adopt-a-resident programme in 2002, patrons such as Nadig are getting rarer to find than some of its endangered species. It earned Rs23,500 from adoption fees of six animals through the year ended March 2007, just about a third of Rs66,980 it earned in the previous year from the sponsorship of 29 animals and reptiles.
All of this, meanwhile, is a small proportion of the Rs3.71 crore generated from annual rentals and gate-fee collections. However, park authorities hope that more people such as Nadig will adopt residents of the zoo as general awareness of wildlife and environment conservation grows.
“There is lot of interest, but it takes time for people to commit some money for causes such as these,” said K.B. Markandaiah, deputy conservator of forests, who heads the park. He said he has written to leading software companies in Bangalore and is still hopeful of hearing from them on his animal adoption proposal.
Commitment could be the other issue. The wildlife club of the outsourcing arm of HSBC Bank, located on the road named after the national park, had adopted a Royal Bengal white tiger for a year in 2004, but did not renew the contract further, Markandaiah said. The club, however, still has its name on a board outside the tiger’s enclosure.
The Bannerghatta Park began the experiment a year after the Mysore zoo or Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens—founded in 1892 and among the oldest zoos in the world—launched the adoption programme in 2001 that saw public support coming for seven animals.
In the year to March 2007, around 112 animals and birds were adopted in Mysore, earning it Rs5.5 lakh. Among the adopters is Prasad Vijayapuram, a consultant for real-estate companies, who paid Rs6,000 each to feed, till April next, two macaws, the colourful birds from Central and South America. “We blow millions of rupees on entertainment and holidays, why not some for these animals,” said Vijayapuram.
Several other zoos, including the one in Lucknow, also allow adoption of birds and animals and charge anything from Rs500 to feed a pair of lovebirds to as much as Rs1 lakh for an elephant.
Last week, keepers at the Bannerghatta Park were excited that their adopt-a-resident programme could get a boost from another unlikely quarter: cricket, a game that a nation of a billion people is fanatic about. Visiting the zoo was Indian cricket team captain Rahul Dravid, who, according to one of the zoo officials, expressed an interest in sponsoring a zoo resident’s upkeep.