Vol. 5 Num 1054 Sun. May 20, 2007  
Front Page

Starving at safari park
Too many animals crammed at Dulahajra sanctuary leads to severe food crisis

Fund shortage at the country's lone safari park at Dulahazra of Chakoria in Cox's Bazar has been affecting food supply for wild animals as around 250 more animals were added to the park since January this year.

After the present government took over in January, joint forces rescued most of these new residents of the park during their drives at houses and establishments owned by graft suspects. Many individuals also 'donated' some of the animals to the park during this period.

Before the recent influx of rescued or donated animals that include two elephants, Dulahazra Park was already home to 4,000 animals of 165 species.

During the last fiscal year, allocated fund to feed all these animals was only Tk 40 lakh, said Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, project director of the park.

Over Tk 15,000 is required per month to feed an elephant alone. The cost includes payment to the mahout (caretaker/ trainer of elephants), said sources.

There are 13 elephants in the park at present and the annual fund allocation is insufficient to take care of all the animals in the park. Even though more animals were sent to the park, no arrangement was made yet to allocate sufficient funds for feeding and maintaining the animals, the sources observed.

The park authorities claimed that around Tk 2 lakh out of the monthly allocation of Tk 3.3 lakh is being spent on the 13 elephants.

Fund shortage has forced the park authorities to receive animal feed on credit from a private animal feed supplier from Chittagong named Ayub and Brothers. The park now owes Tk 3 lakh to the supplier.

"Tk 70 lakh to Tk 80 lakh per year is required for feeding all these animals. Right now we are taking care of the animals somehow, but it's getting too difficult to continue like this," Project Director Dr Tapan observed.

"We accept new animals as per the directives of courts and to discourage general public from confining wild animals in cages for mere personal entertainment," he added.

The seized and donated animals recently sent to the park include 90 spotted deer (chital), 42 barking deer (maya, a species of muntjac deer), three sambar deer, one freshwater crocodile, one saltwater crocodile, nine black bear, four pythons, 17 peacocks, 19 Turkish pheasants and two emus.

Dulahazra Safari Park was developed on an undulating landscape of around 2,224 acres of area at Chakoria in Cox's Bazar, some 107 km away from the port city, with an objective to create facilities for eco-tourism, research work and entertainment aside from conserving wild animals in a natural environment.

Since the park was made open to the public, it has been drawing a huge crowd all year round -- 6,000 visitors daily during peak season (November to March) and 2,000 visitors daily during off season (April to October).

FROM TOP... Hungry hippos open their mouths when they see grass in visitors' hands at Dulahajra Safari Park in Cox's Bazar. The park now has 13 elephants and the park authorities are struggling to feed these animals. PHOTO: STAR