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Marghazar Zoo loses four nilgais in a week

By Kashif Abbasi 2019-01-04
ISLAMABAD: At least four nilgais have died in the Marghazar Zoo within a week apparently due to the cold weather as the officials concerned did not construct huts to keep the animals warm at night.

Sourcessaid the nilgais died one afterthe otherinthezoo which lacks proper facilities for the captive animals.

During the last four years, around two dozen animals, including zebras, an ostrich, lion cubs, a bear, urails and nilgais died in the zoo apparently because of the negligence of the staff. But officially the authorities termed the death of the animals `natural.

In August last year, six deer were killed by a wolf at the F-8 enclosure, an extension of the zoo, due to the absence of any staff there.

The sources said the zoo staff at the start of the winter was supposed to set up huts at the enclosure of nilgais to provide them shelter against the cold waves. However, no such step was taken.

The sources said newly-appointed director zoo Rana Tahir took notice of the incident and sought explanation from the zoo supervisor Faiz Mustafa and another staffer.

When contacted by Dawn, the director zoo confirmed that the nilgaishad died duringthelast10 days.

He said the bodies had been shifted to the National Veterinary Laboratory.

`The autopsy reports will determine the cause of death, he said, adding huts should have been constructed at the start of the winter. He said before receiving autopsy reports, he could not say the animals died because of the extreme cold waves.

The zoo is one of the most neglected departments of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) where many believe less focus is paid on the wellbeing of animals.

Around two dozen employees of the zoo, instead of performing their duties, are engaged in union politics. There are also reports about substandard food being provided to the animals. The zoo director during an inspection last week found substandard food being provided to the animalsby the contractor. He asked the contractor to replace the food with fresh one.

Meanwhile, the sources said sugarcane arranged by the zoo management to feed the lone elephant Kavaan was being sold to the visitors. The sources said the zoo staff handed sugarcane pieces to the visitors, especially children, who wanted to feed the elephant and charged them Rs10 to Rs20 per piece.

The overall condition of the zoo is also not up to the mark as animals are forced to live in small cages with the authorities unable to expand the facility. Even Kavaan is forced to live in a three-walled small enclosure.

When contacted, Chief Metropolitan Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal confirmed the death of the nilgais.

`I was told that the animals died due to fighting and a viral disease,` he said, adding the actual cause of the deaths would be determined after the autopsy report.

The CMO said he had ordered an inquiry and if negli-gence of the zoo staff behind the death of the animals was established, strict disciplinary action would be taken against the guilty.

About upgradation of the zoo, Mr Iqbal said for the fiscal year 2018-19 the previous government had earmarl(ed Rs100 million but in the mini-budget the proposed funds were dropped.

`Now I have decided to allocate some funds which the MCI collected through municipal services and entry tickets on necessary upgradation of the zoo.

He said talks were also underway with an international charity organisation which had shown interest to help the MCI in upgrading the zoo.

The sources said the charity organisation was asking the zoo management to release Kavaan to an animal sanctuary after which the organisation would help upgrade the zoo to the international level. The sources said so far no final decision had been taken about the release of Kavaan.