A Cuban crocodile in the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust died on March 30 and the founder of the centre, Romulus Whitaker, took to social media on Thursday to blame the Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa next door for the fatality. According to the herpetologist, the critically endangered reptile died as a result of stress caused by vibrations from the heavy bass music that was being played in the resort on the same day.
This allegation from the crocodile bank follows the concern they had expressed in February over the opening of the resort next to the reptile zoo. Romulus had said that the resort's booming bass levels triggered aberrant behaviour amongst the animals in his care. The decibel level and timing too allegedly exceeded the legal limits. He had expressed concern over the long-term effects the 'auditory torture' would have on the reptiles' breeding and behaviour patterns. Following his post, the representatives from the resort held a meeting with the trust and assured them that decibel level will be as per legal limits. This assurance however, seems to have yielded no result.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the animal died as a result of stress caused by the vibrations, and there are precedents to this from the zoo community abroad. The Cuban crocodile enclosure is around 50 ft from the wall which divides the hotel from us and the powerful hi-fidelity speakers had been placed right next to it. The animal had been healthy, had fed recently, and had no injuries or history of sickness," Romulus wrote the Trust's Facebook page. "This is a critical breeding group of one of the most endangered animals in the world: 1 male and 4 (now 3) females. Extremely lucky that it wasn’t the male who succumbed. We will now consider moving the group to another location, an expensive and difficult undertaking. As one of the founders of the Croc Bank, I am shattered by this loss. This is really too much!" he concluded.
A picture of the dead crocodile was attached to the post.
When TNM contacted the resort they denied having hosted the event on the lawn.
"We did have an event on March 30 but it was on the beach side, not on the lawn. We had also adhered to all legally permissible limits, as far as the music is concerned," says Marketing Communication Manager Jayadev. "We are now planning to meet the trustees from the bank to further discuss this issue. In the past too we have held meeting and come to an agreement on decibel levels."