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State zoos staring at funds crunch for third consecutive year

By Shankar Bennur

Fund crunch may hit the State zoos this year too despite steady rise in footfalls with revival of tourist arrivals.

The Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) is hoping to earn a revenue of ₹73.92 crore through gate collections this year. Yet, the ZAK faces a deficit of ₹ 17.49 crore, even as the expenditure of maintaining the State zoos and paying salaries has been pegged at ₹114.67 crore for the year 2022-23. The ZAK has proposed to mobilize ₹23.26 crore through other sources, including the animal adoption scheme. 

Though the pre-COVID-19 footfalls are yet to be reached, including at the famous Mysuru zoo, the footfalls are by and large improved, raising hopes of a sustained recovery. Larger zoos like the Mysuru zoo require sizable revenue for maintenance and the management is once again hoping for donations/adoptions to come to its rescue this year too. 

ZAK Chairman Mahadevaswamy said the authority will write to the State Government to come to the rescue of zoos announcing a package. 

For the first time after a gap of two years, the ZAK has set aside funds for development works that had come to a halt over steep fall in revenue during the first and second waves of pandemic. 

“In the shortfall of what the ZAK has been facing, a sum of ₹5 crore comes from the government for the cost incurred on rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals at the rescue center at Mysuru. The remaining deficit is a worrying factor. However, we are hoping that donations and adoptions would come to our rescue,” said ZAK Member Secretary and APCCF B.P. Ravi. 

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr Ravi said that the ZAK may have to put on hold the development works if it cannot manage to overcome the deficit. There is no other means for the ZAK unless there is a good response yet again from animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts who had supported the zoos with generous donation and adoption in COVID-19 years, he added. 

A lot of help came in from animal lovers and others, including politicians, who gave donations and adopted animals and birds over the last two years. More than ₹3.5 crore came in the form of donations and adoptions to the Mysuru zoo, helping the zoo management to manage the crisis. 

Thankfully, footfalls are climbing as a record turnout of visitors was witnessed in April with the footfall close to the pre-COVID-19 numbers. In the absence of COVID-19 restrictions, a large number of people from Kerala thronged Mysuru during the festive season. 

Zoo Executive Director Ajit Kulkarni said post-COVID-19, getting this kind of footfall is indeed promising as the zoo runs completely on gate collections, and the revenue is key for its maintenance.

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