Since the time immemorial the Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, Tirupati, has been using Punugu (civet oil) in temple rituals and for the last couple of decades they have been in dire strait of the secrete from the glands of civet cats. The temple diety is anointed with this fragrant oil along with others as part of a weekly pooja on Friday and the dearth of the oil has put the administration of the temple to seek alternate to produce civet oil.
The administration, Tirumala Tirupati Devaswom (TTD), has come with the idea, though not new, to rear civet cats, an endangered species belonging to feline community, in the temple premises to meet the demand of civet oil.
The trust of the temple has made a fresh bid to the state and central governments to allow captive breeding of the civet cat. Thier demand is that Forest Department will be given both physical as well as money support to maintain a zoo for the captive breeding of the nocturnal animal for a fair amount of supply of civet on a regulr basis.
However, the Forest Department has found the idea as so good as the TTD.
This was not the first time that the temple is coming with such an idea.The trust, until 2008, has maintained a ghoshala for breeding civet cats. There were more than fifteen and the public protest against the illegal rearing of the endangered species within the temple premises led to action against it by the Union Ministry for Forests and Environemnt. The animals were later taken by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department and shifted to a zoo in Tirupati. The TTD was charged with animal cruelty for extracting oil from the body of the civet cats everyday.
Though the TTD administration emerged scot free as the local court acquitted them off. The Forest department, however, has said that they have no issues in constructing a nocturnal house for the cats if the TTD offered funding. But cannot guarantee any supply of civet oil or engage the extraction of civet oil from the animal under its care, as it would be a violation of Wildlife Act.
Meanwhile, it has been heard that the plea of the TTD to the Environment Ministry was also turned down. The Ministry is wary of any tweak in the Wildlife Act for the temple alone as it will bring more misery in the future.