Eight-month-old Saravanan leaps, plays and runs around his new home at the Delhi zoo, displaying agility and enthusiasm similar to the popular Tamil actor the white tiger cub is named after.
His father and the zoo’s most famous resident Vijay, who made headlines last month after killing a man who jumped into his enclosure, also shares his name with a Tamil superstar.
This new trend of giving animals south Indian names at the Capital’s National Zoological Park – usually a north Indian hub – is because of the zoo’s veterinary head Dr Panneer Selvam, who hails from Tamil Nadu.
Dr Selvam takes care of animals born in the zoo or brought to the institution before releasing them to their respective enclosures and is responsible for naming them.
At present, more than 10 zoo animals have names with south Indian meanings. Some of them include Rajalakshmi (Indian elephant), Ganeshan (African elephant), Maheshwari and Anjuha (rhinos) and Sendil (wild bear).
Uma, a rhino he had named after goddess Parvati, is Selvam’s favourite.
“I treat these animals as my own children and therefore the names I give them are derived from the social background that I have. There is a story and a meaning behind every name given,” added Selvam.
Though naming animals in any zoological park in the world is a practice necessary for identifying the animal and keeping a record of its ancestry, it generally becomes a ritual that officials undertake with a lot of love and care.
“When a new animal comes into the zoo from outside we generally keep it at the hospital for 10 to 45 days depending on the need. If the offspring is born here, we keep them in for at least six months. It is natural to develop a certain bond with the animal in this period,” said Selvam.