The famed Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Center for Herpetology, or simply, the Crocodile Bank for many locals, has been hit hard by the lockdown. Visitors to the park bring a major source of revenue and this stream has been cut off due to the stringent restrictions on travel.
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The Crocodile Bank is an iconic institution that has been engaged in conservation of rare species for over four decades. It is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, with summers bringing in many visitors. The site is situated away from the bustle of the city, in Mahabalipuram. However, mushrooming five-star hotels and resorts in the area have shattered the once tranquil environment.
The Crocodile Bank has seen some tough times recently, with the death of Jaws, who was India’s largest crocodile in captivity. Jaws passed away in January. The Crocodile Bank feared that the stress caused from the noise in the surrounding neighbourhood could be a factor. A complaint had previously been raised on the issue in April of last year when a Cuban crocodile allegedly died due to stress from the loud music coming from the nearby five-star resorts.
Putting behind the loss of Jaws, the Crocodile Bank continued to focus on conservation and breeding. It is home to more than 17 species including crocodiles, snakes, lizards, turtles, snakes and a komodo dragon. But it now faces a new challenge due to COVID-19.
The lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the virus has caused considerable loss in revenue. While procurement of food for the animals has not been an issue during the lockdown, the administrators expect a grave funds crunch due to this loss.
The Crocodile Bank sees approximately around 1.25 lakh visitors during the summer months, bringing in a revenue of around Rs 80 lakh. But since the closure of the Crocodile Bank in March, there has been no revenue from visitors. Donations from local and foreign donors have also fallen short due to the effect of the pandemic.
Senior staff have taken a voluntary pay-cut to help the organisation in these times. The Crocodile Bank employs close to 50 employees to take care of the 2000-strong reptilian residents.
Costs to rise
The Crocodile Bank also expects an increase in running costs when it is allowed to reopen due to new social distancing and hygiene measures to be put in place such as supply of masks and sanitisers to all visitors to ensure the safety of all.
To make up for the shortfall and shore up its finances, the Crocodile Bank is raising funds from the public. The Crocodile Bank is looking to raise Rs 80 lakhs to ensure that its annual budgetary needs of around Rs 4 crores is met.
How can you help?
Donations can be made to the Crocodile Bank for it to continue its stellar work. You can contribute towards adopting a crocodile, sponsoring feed for the animals, contribute towards wages for the staff or research conducted by the Crocodile Bank.
“We make it a point to go to the Crocodile Bank every year as a family. It’s a place where we have many memories. They do a wonderful job in saving endangered species. Each trip is an education. The staff are patient and courteous and care for the animals so well. When we had heard about the problems faced, we definitely wanted to chip in with whatever contribution we can make as they are doing important work”, says Amrutha K, a resident of T. Nagar.