Byculla zoo is the only one in India that has Humboldt penguins and sending them back will deprive Indians of the opportunity to see them, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wrote in an affidavit to the Bombay high court.
“We have taken utmost care and precautions for providing a healthy and conducive environment for the seven imported Humboldt penguins and therefore there is no question of sending them back,” the BMC adds in the affidavit, filed in reply to a public interest litigation by lawyer Advait Sethna.
Through his PIL, Sethna wants the BMC to be ordered to return the penguins either to the place from where they were imported (South Korea) or their natural habitat, coastal South America. He also wants the court to issue an interim order to prevent the BMC from exhibiting the seven penguins to the public.
The BMC’s affidavit states that according to the approved animal collection plan 2011, Byculla zoo is authorised to exhibit 18 Indian animals and five exotic animals, including Humboldt penguins. Accordingly, the BMC in July 2016 imported eight Humboldt penguins – three males and five females – after obtaining all the required permissions. One of the females, a one-and-half-year-old named Dory, died in October 2016 of a viral infection despite the BMC’s best attempts and providing the best possible medical treatment, the affidavit reads. It adds that Humboldt penguins are sturdy and easily adapt to new environments when compared to Antarctic penguins.
The BMC’s counsel, Anil Sakhare, told the bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Girish Kulkarni that the penguins are in quarantine, not on display to the public, and that only a veterinarian and a keeper are allowed to enter their living area.
The court will next hear the matter in a week to give Sethna time to respond to the BMC’s affidavit.