The iconic snake park in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai is on the verge of closure as the Covid-19 lockdown resulted in suspension of visitors. This has led to the park not having any income
The iconic snake park in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai is on the verge of closure as the Covid-19 lockdown resulted in suspension of visitors. This has led to the park not having any income, a report by The IE citing the park’s management said. It is to note that the park has been in the city for nearly five decades. In 1972, the park was founded by Herpetologist Romus Whitaker and is a home for exotic species of turtles, lizards, 300 reptiles and 20 species of snakes.
According to the management of the Chennai Snake Park Trust, the place has not seen any visitor since March 2020 following a Covid-19 induced lockdown. Due to this, the management is now struggling to pay its staff or maintain the park. In fact, feeding the reptiles present there has become difficult. The park has also witnessed downsizing as 20 staff members were employed here before the pandemic hit and now this number has gone down to 10. In fact, the people who are working here are only getting half their salary for more than a year now.
Dr S Paulraj, executive chairman of the Trust told The IE that all savings are being exhausted to manage the park because there was no income. Pualraj said that maintaining a park with animals is much different from running a business. Even when there is no business, the reptiles need to be fed. He highlighted that the park received a footfall of around 5,000 to 6,000 people on weekdays which was more than 10,000 on weekends before Covid-19 hit the nation. At that time, the park could easily generate around Rs 75 lakh annually and an income of Rs 6 lakh per month. Of the total monthly income, Rs 4 lakh was used for salaries of employees and Rs 2 lakh was used to feed the reptiles.
As the park was solely dependent on ticket sales for revenue, the lockdown impact was pretty bad. Even when the state government lifted some restrictions for a short period of time after the first lockdown, there was not enough footfall for them to survive, the report said. After this, the park survived on some donations that it received from NGOs as part of their CSR activities along with their own savings.
However, going forward, there is a shortage of funds. According to Paulraj, after 10 years, the park was able to improve the breeding of the critically endangered Gangetic Gharial. But now they do not have the means to protect it or provide nutritious food that is needed.
To be sure, the park comes under a non-profit organisation and therefore, it does not receive any funding from the government, or other wildlife sanctuaries in the state. Meanwhile, they are hoping that Tamil Nadu government and other volunteers donate funds which can be used to run the park.