Protesters demand higher compensation and permanent employment for victim’s son
The popular safari section of the Bannerghatta Biological Park remained closed on Sunday as workers staged an impromptu strike a day after their colleague was killed by a white tiger.
Around 7 p.m. on Saturday, 35-year-old Anjeneya (popularly called Anji), a resident of the tribal Hakki Pikki Colony, was killed when he was at the enclosure to feed the tigers.
Following the incident, contract workers and family members staged a protest.
The zoo was not opened for two hours in the morning, while the safari stretch was closed. The protesters demanded an increased compensation as well as permanent employment for Anji’s son at the park.
“We have agreed to pay ₹10 lakh compensation, half of it from the Zoo Authority of Karnataka and the other half from the State government. But, rules do not permit hiring on permanent basis,” said Santosh Kumar, Executive Director.
Preliminary investigations by park authorities and police personnel show that Anjeneya had not latched the gate of the enclosure properly. He was at the back of the cage - used for feeding safari tigers in the evening - and the opened gate allowed access from the Safari.
Two 18-month-old white tiger cubs, Vanya and Jhansi, pounced on the hapless zoo worker and dragged him into the safari area. He died on the spot before his senior manager, Huchche Gowda, could come for help. Mr. Gowda was questioned by the Bannerghatta Police on Sunday.
However, workers said the responsibility must be on the zoo management too. Anjeneya was hired as a cleaner in the zoo just a week ago, and was called in to operate the gates of the safari as his colleague did not show up for work, said workers at the zoo.
“Since the zoo no longer hires trained permanent employees, untrained contract workers are used. This is dangerous for them and for the animals,” said a worker.
Punati Shridhar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said safety in the park was a concern and directions have been issued to strictly follow standard operating procedures. “There have been lapses. CCTV cameras are being installed in the area. We have told the zoo authorities that for any incident like this, accountability will be fixed from the level of the director to even the worker,” he said.