Morning walkers at Lodhi Garden were in for a shock on Saturday.
The regulars at one of the most popular gardens in the capital saw ducks that normally contribute to a picture of serenity in the park lying dead in a dry pool.
Though onlookers claim they spotted some 13 dead ducks, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), which is responsible for the lake’s upkeep, claimed six ducks had died so far.
What went wrong?
The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working for animal welfare in the city and the morning walkers alleged the deaths have been caused due to scarcity of water in the canal due to the rising temperature in the city. They further alleged the lake had not been cleaned for quite some time.
“The water is so filthy, it is impossible for these ducks to survive. Also, the right side of the canal has dried up and is full of muck making it impossible for the ducks to move,” said Gautam Grover of Animal Saviour.
“The scarcity of water has already killed a lot of fish. Dead fish have been decaying there for quite some time. The water could have turned poisonous," he added.
Geeta Bhargava, a resident of Defence Colony, who had come to the garden around 6 a.m. on Saturday for a walk found the ducks lying in the ditch.
“I saw as many as 10 dead ducks while a number of ducks were stuck in the muck and seemed to have been infected,” Bhargava said.
She further added that for the past 10 days the water level of the canal had been declining and the lake had not been cleaned for quite some time.
"I myself saw a passer-by removing four dead ducks from the small hut meant for these ducks,” she said.
NDMC blames dogs
The NDMC however claimed that stray dogs had attacked the ducks and while six died, eight were injured.
“There are a number of dogs in the vicinity and they attacked the ducks. While some died on the spot, others tried to run but got stuck in the muck. We rushed them to the veterinary hospital at Moti Bagh where the injured are being treated,” said Subhash Chandra, director, horticulture department, NDMC.
NGOs and morning walkers rubbished the NDMC's claims.
“The dogs in the area are well fed and have never attacked ducks in the past. Why would they do it now? Also, a number of ducks were rescued from the muck so how could it be a case of a dog attack?” said Grover.
The civic body has now started cleaning the pond and has shifted the ducks to the left side of the pond. Also, an enclosure has been erected around the pond to restrict the entry of dogs.
The civic body officials also said the carrying capacity of the pond is 30-40 ducks, but the number has been increasing and the water in the pond is proving to be inadequate.
“There were a total of 14 ducks that we found out. Six of them were killed by the dogs. Three ducks had died on the spot and we buried them in the garden itself. Two died while we were on our way to the hospital and one died during treatment. Also, out of the eight that were wounded, two chicks didn't have any dog bite but their legs were fractured," said a senior NDMC official.
The civic body did not carry out a post-mortem of the ducks saying there was no need for it.