Unsung Heroes

Yentha Heroes are not necessarily celebrities. Our hero is a person who brings a smile to our lives or who makes a difference in our neighbourhood. Suggest a hero and Yentha will do the rest. Trust us. Do you know anybody like this? Or a story waiting to be told?
Trivandrum's Own Steve Irwin

joe with lions yenthaHis pets are two lions and a tiger. He raises wild cats at his quarters. He has been chased by buffaloes, hippos and elephants. He has enough near-death experiences within two years than most people have in their entire lives. Meet Dr. Joe Jacob Sebastian– Trivandrum’s own Steve Irwin.

Most of the people who look through his photo albums online would be left awestruck or more often shocked. All the pictures show Joe in what others would call “dangerous” situation. For example, a picture with his hand inside a lion’s mouth. For Joe, it is just his job. Joe is the veterinary surgeon at the Trivandrum Zoo.

He joined the Trivandrum Zoo in 2008, after a stint as a pilot. Since then the health of all the animals in the zoo has been his responsibility. His patients range from the little deer fawn to the lethal King Cobra. Before joining the zoo he was the Chief of the Elephant Squad. It was Joe who helped capture the rogue elephant which became infamous as “Kola Kolli”. Before Joe darted the elephant, it had chased him around. Another brush with death. Another day in the office.

Though “Kola Kolli” became a name synonymous with fear, Joe only has sympathies for the animal. “It was not actually so aggressive as the media made it out to be,” says Joe, “It had two infected teeth which prompted it to come out in search for softer food. This became a nuisance to the locals who brewed illicit liquor in the area, and hence they spread these stories.” Later, the elephant which refused to accept treatment, died in captivity.

That is not the only instance Joe has shown sympathies for these so called “dangerous” animals. When a tigress rejected her cub, Joe took it home in October 2008, and his family raised it as a pet. He named it “Saya”. One month later, a pair of lion cubs also joined the tiger. “Raising the abandoned cubs is hard,” says Joe. “They have to be fed every two hours. We had to set alarm to wake up and feed them.” Joe reckons that this might be the only recorded incidence where tigers and lions were brought up together. He recalls a funny incident that happened in connection with the tiger cub. His daughter took to school a picture of her holding the one month old cub. And her friends said, “We also have these. We got it from Style Plus.”

 yenthaJoe refers to the lions as his kids. They never hurt him in any way. Except perhaps the marks on his arms that a ‘playful lion’ has left. The whole schedule is a very satisfying experience for Joe. He says: “It is a very nice feeling to know that you have saved a creature, which otherwise had no chance of survival. However, sometimes you get too attached to them. And when they die, you are depressed.” Both lions had problems related to in-breeding, and died this year.

He was also part of the squad which trans-located 65 crocodiles from Neyyar to Parambikulam. As a vet, he does not have to actually handle the animals. There are trained animal handlers for the job. But then, why does he do it? He loves his ‘pets’. Apart from lions and tigers, Joe has hand-reared one Sambar deer, one Malabar Giant Squirrel, and a few birds. Right now he is looking after a Gaur, which is a type of wild buffalo. It was found by forest rangers and at five months, which is already the size of a cow.  It is expected to grow into a 700 kilo beast.

Joe has had a few close calls with the wild. Once, a hippo chased him around its cage. He escaped by jumping into the moat at the Trivandrum zoo. Another time, he sedated an African Cape buffalo and was about to administer medicine to it. As he bent down, it raised its head, and its horn scraped his neck. Another inch closer and it would have been through his throat. Another time, a leopard put its paw out and whacked his shoulder. It tore his jacket and shirt and bruised him badly. 

Joe’s favourite animals are the big cats. But the ones he is wary of are much smaller. “The deer maybe small, but they are too fast and panicky,” he says. “If they panic the whole herd might run over you.”  The porcupines are also best left alone. One attack could put as much as 60 spines right through you. And the creature he most stays away from? The King Cobra.  “It is lethal. There is no anti-venom.”


joe yentha

mary cobra yentha





















joe yentha


Is there a principle behind dealing with dangerous creatures? “You have to be aware that these are very powerful animals,” says Joe. “They can kill you anytime. They are choosing not to. Once you become overconfident, you are gone. You cannot trust them when they are in pain.”

Joe is not happy with the politics involved in the department. His superiors are mostly political appointments who turn out to be people who know nothing about animals. It becomes totally chaotic when these people issue the orders on what to do. Which is why, Joe—a hero in all terms of the word—will soon be calling it quits as a vet and going back to his other love—flying.







By Syam Nath

Posted By : Cris, On Jun 13, 2010 11:47:37 PM
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Found him quite by accident. Quite a story huh ? I dont think there are many people in the world who can put a hand in a lions mouth and take it out intact. Quite a hero.
Syam Nath S, on Jun 14, 2010 12:39:38 AM
he actually took the cub back home and named it "saya" !!! GODLY BANDA HAI....and superb pics!!!! esp the first one
Astha Dangwal, on Jun 14, 2010 12:53:29 AM
It is really great to c. A man loving wild animals and treating the animal as pet specially lions. which is seems to be very dangerous creature. mmmmmmmmmmm Good story!
Shanti, on Jun 14, 2010 09:48:40 AM
The zoo being one of the most abandoned places in Trivandrum, Joe is doing one hell of a job I should say.And the simple reality about the ignorant zoo administration which is driving away people like joe is itself a warning to the authorities.The author has given justice to the cause with the detailed write up as well.Good work Shyam
Mithun, on Jun 14, 2010 11:10:45 AM
OMG ! its hardly to believe that we have people like Dr.Joe in the city :-) .. Unsung Hero For sure !
Devajyoti Ghosh, on Jun 14, 2010 12:02:49 PM
Wow i am impressed never expected to come across such a guy
Jairam Ramesh, on Jun 14, 2010 03:21:34 PM
ya i know him personally...took a pic of mine with the tiger, "Saya" when she was 2 months old!!! Coincidently my sister's name too is Saya
Kevin Jacob Kurian, on Jun 14, 2010 04:31:29 PM
awesome guy!
D@rky, on Jun 15, 2010 04:07:19 PM
mayakku marunnu kuthivechittu lioniteyo venamenkil anakondayude vayil vare kayyidam.. athu athra valiya kaaryam onnum alla.
ARUN JYOTHI, on Jun 15, 2010 08:33:44 PM
gud to know dat such ppl still exist...nd gud write up...
Bhagi, on Jun 15, 2010 08:39:46 PM
@astha. Yes he did. And i know. great pictures @Shanti. Thank you @Mithun. Thank you @Devajyothi. Yes i was also quite atonished :) @Jairam. Neither did i :-) @Kevin. I think i saw that picture too :-) @Arun jyothi Picture kandille? they are not sedated. Plus he raised them at home. he dosnt have to sedate them. also, anayude vayil mayaku marunu ilate kayi vekkunavar vere ond :-) Thanks for your comment too @bhagi. Thank you too.
Syam Nath S, on Jun 16, 2010 02:46:33 AM
Hats off to Dr.Joe and Shyam Nath.Its sad that this hero is leaving the zoo because of politics. Such people who really love animals should be posted there .
Mini Rani, on Jun 16, 2010 07:18:06 AM
yevan puli aanu ketta!
Rayamanikkam, on Jun 16, 2010 04:34:33 PM
Great guy..Hats off to him and ofcourse hats off 'TIRONTHARAM' :)
Abhilash, on Jun 22, 2010 11:20:25 PM
i know him and of course his pets personally since i m attached to the forest department and therefore i can say that no one as dedicated and knowledgeble as him exists anywhere else
Rohini, on Jun 29, 2010 11:49:02 AM
Good work shyam.. oved reading it.. thanks :)
Shijo Parakadan, on Jul 09, 2010 11:46:55 AM
Syam Khosh S, on Jul 18, 2010 03:41:42 PM
Hats off to you for going beyond the call of duty. I do hope that you stay on in this noble venture, and inspire generations to come..
Sreekumar, on Jul 20, 2010 10:56:37 AM
Its very rare to come across dedicated animal lovers. And he do it as a passion not as a job. Definitely we are proud of you Dr. Joe.
Merry George, on Aug 13, 2010 05:43:22 PM
nice 2 kno abt such kind of personalities..thnx 2 yentha.com
Saju, on Sep 23, 2010 11:56:39 PM
Its good to see a true animal lover like you joe... U have a mission at hand and let the politics not hinder you.I have been visiting this zoo as a child and its ways different these days. conditions have improved. Thank to good work of people like you.
Raj Kumar, on Dec 16, 2014 01:01:42 PM
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