Wild cats, rescued from the circus, cannot be sent immediately into the jungle since it would be difficult for them to adjust to a new world. A rehabilitation centre in Chennai is providing a perfect semi-wild environment for these wild beasts to help bring their life to normalcy.
Behind the fun and frolic of the circus lies a dark reality where animals are tamed, tortured and forced to perform in front of huge audiences. The wild beasts who should rule the jungle becomes timid animals who jump to the whistle.
Poor living conditions make the situation even worse for these animals. The ban (in 2013) on using wild animals in circuses did come as a welcome move but it was followed by yet another problem – how to rehabilitate the animals?
The animals, once rescued, cannot immediately be left in the wild since they will not be able to adjust to the sudden change in environment. They will also face problems of survival among other wild animals.
Photo: John Johnston/Flickr
In this situation, rehabilitating them in a semi-wild habitat seems like the most feasible option, and the Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre does just that. Located opposite Vandalur zoo, Chennai, the centre provides the perfect environment for the wild cats to get away from the harsh life of the circus.
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Their sad life has not just affected these cats physically, which is quite evident from their matted coats and bed sores, but also adversely impacted their behaviour and made them lethargic and weak.
The cats brought in for rehabilitation lack stamina and have bed sores from lying inside small cages for several years. They often get agitated when an animal keeper moves close to them since it reminds them of circus handlers who would whip them to make them perform.
But gradually, these wild cats are moving towards a better life. The centre plays a crucial role in bringing their life to normal. Though the circus environment make the cats weak and timid, at the centre they get into a different routine. The centre, which has over 100 hectares of forest area, helps them recover from their illness. But it often takes over a year for these beasts to come to terms with their new free environment.
With regular care and love, these wild cats slowly get back their original shiny coats and manes. They also get healthy meals and a spacious activity area, which allows them to gain stamina and strength.
Since the centre is meant for rescue and rehabilitation and not for rearing, all male lions and tigers are vasectomised to avoid inbreeding. The centre now hosts nine lions and five tigers – most are more than 20 years old.
The centre authorities claim that the animals would have died at a much younger age if they were kept at the circus. Here, the average age of death of these animals is 30 years.