Eight-year-old Ashish grips Vijay by his throat. The boy then growls, as he wrestles with the white tiger, pins him to the ground. A little later, the little boy finally makes peace with his new stuffed friend by hugging him.
Delhi zoo’s much-adored white tiger Vijay — who mauled a youth to death inside his enclosure on September 23 — has quickly turned out to be a must-see and must-have for visitors, with hundreds of miniature stuffed versions of the animal flying off the shelves at the souvenir shop inside the zoo premises.
Miniature Vijays, as the shopkeeper likes to call them, are available in all sizes at the souvenir shop and have witnessed a spike in sale.
“We made plans to visit the zoo after the kids insisted. After taking rounds of the enclosures, the children were very eager to have their own stuffed-toy version of Vijay. The constant coverage that the mauling incident received made them more enthusiastic,” said Malini Rawat, a mother of two, who was spotted bargaining at the store.
Niranjan Giri and Naresh Kumar, the store keepers, claimed that their earlier neglected store suddenly shot to the limelight and was attracting customers by the dozens.
The white tiger stuffed toys, they said, were made in Mumbai and Hyderabad and available in the store in three sizes — small, medium and large — at prices ranging from 250 to 700.
“We have already sold all the small-sized stuffed white tigers. After the incident, children visiting the zoo invariably run straight to our shop begging their parents to buy them the toy. Now even we have started referring to the tiger toys as Vijay when placing our orders with the dealers,” said Giri, as he sold his final piece.
Giri claimed that in the past week alone, their store had sold 25 pieces of the toy. A total of nearly 50-60 pieces were sold after the incident.
“During summers, the sale is particularly low as very few people visit the zoo. In fact, we are barely able to sell four to five tigers. People, till very recently, used to prefer toys like the monkey or the bear. But now, they seem to want the white tigers,” Giri added.
Vijay’s popularity seemed to have rubbed off on young couples, looking for gifts, for their partners.
“I am buying this for my girlfriend. She wanted me to get her a stuffed toy and what could be better than the white tiger,” said Mohit Biswas, a student of IP University.