Forest dept highlights mismanagement at Pune’s Katraj animal rescue centre
According to officials, many animals, including those in the Schedule 1 category, which includes animals that are provided with the highest protection under Wildlife Protection Act 1972, are manhandled, and not all information on other animals is on record
Senior forest officials have noted management issues at the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park’s Wild Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WARR) at Katraj. According to officials, many animals, including those in the Schedule 1 category, which includes animals that are provided with the highest protection under Wildlife Protection Act 1972, are manhandled, and not all information on other animals is on record.
The department has written to Mahip Gupta, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), and Chief Wildlife Warden about this mismanagement and demanded immediate intervention for the same.
In April this year, the forest department received a complaint from wildlife warden Aditya Paranjape about the irregularities in WARR, Katraj. After this, a team of forest officials visited the centre in Katraj last week of April when it found that records of some captive animals are missing. Based on the visit and investigation, a report was prepared and sent to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), and Chief Wildlife Warden.
Tushar Chavan, deputy conservator of forest (wildlife), said, “A captive wildlife management system (CWMS) was set up to get status updates about animals in captivity at various rescue and rehabilitation centres. For a long, there was no proper information about animals at WARR, which is run by the Indian Herpetological Society (IHS). At the same time, we received a complaint about irregularities. On that basis, the forest officials’ team visited the centre. During our investigations, we found that the mismanagement of the wildlife in the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park’s Wild Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre facility is evident and we wrote about it to senior authorities seeking intervention.”
This was not the first time when irregularities were reported in the WARR. Earlier in 2018, a similar complaint was registered by Jaydev Page, a former chief veterinarian from the rescue and rehabilitation centre.
“I then wrote a complaint to the district and state forest department, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and also to the Prime Minister’s office. But there was no follow-up from authorities,” said Page.
According to Paranjape, the wild animals are being mistreated at this facility for a long. Earlier also veterinarian reported this issue to the concerned authorities yet no strict action has been taken in this regard, he said.
“There are numerous unaccounted wild animals at the Katraj Centre and attempts have been made to move these unaccounted animals, which is a major concern. Moreover, it is alarming to note that the highest level of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, is afforded to most of these animals. Given the gravity of the situation, the forest department must take custody of these animals until the investigation is complete,” said Paranjape.
Rajkumar Jadhav, director, of Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, said, “The rescue and rehabilitation centre is managed by the IHS daily. Regarding the said issue, the IHS has submitted its written reply to the forest department.”
According to Shriram Shinde, a member of the IHS, said, the forest department had raised queries about the number of snakes present at the centre being higher than those on record.
“To which we replied that some snakes are not mentioned in the record because they were recently admitted to the centre and the procedure to record their details is yet to complete. Similarly, the release record is maintained regularly all these things have been mentioned in our reply to the forest department.”
*612 wild animals (birds, mammals, and reptiles) have been released incorrectly and relocated from their home range. As per the records, not a single animal released from the facility has been released back to its original or natural habitat.
*Several animals rescued from within Pune city and adjoining areas have been relocated in Tamhini range, which is a protected area, without prior notice and consent of the Deputy Conservator of Forests Wildlife, Pune. These include species like pigeons and kites from the city areas that may be carriers of several infections and diseases.
*Several snakes currently present in the facility are kept captive without reasonable explanation.
*There is no data evidence, images, or video uploaded of 328 animals who have died/ passed away at the facility. The evidence of death and disposal of these animals needs to be checked and recorded.
*129 animals (birds, mammals, and reptiles) have been kept in the rescue centre in extended captivity periods ranging from 3 months to 10 years which needs to be investigated further and evaluated for fitness to release.
*2 rusty spotted cats were admitted on different dates in June 2022 and August 2022. The data entries appear falsified as they have the same specimen image uploaded for both entries. These animals appear to have passed away on different dates and thus the complete records need to be investigated further.
*Based on public information and media records available, several animals including Pangolin and Crocodile have been admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park’s Wild Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. No data entry is found on the system regarding the admission or outcome of these animals.