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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Delhi zoo’s last Cape Buffalo dies after eating plastic

In his Independence Day speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens to avoid using plastic bags and rid themselves of the habit of using single-use plastic by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

delhi Updated: Sep 05, 2019 06:29 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Found only in Africa, large herds of such buffaloes are encountered in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Cape buffaloes are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths.
Found only in Africa, large herds of such buffaloes are encountered in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Cape buffaloes are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths.(HT Photo)
         

A week after the death of the lone Cape buffalo, a large African bovine, at the National Zoological Park in Delhi, it has emerged that the animal may have died after consuming a plastic bag possibly discarded by a visitor to the zoo. The male Cape buffalo, a species found only in Africa, died on August 27.

“During post-mortem, a plastic packet was found in its stomach. The plastic might have flown into the {animal} enclosure. Visitors often come with plastic bags in the zoo and discard them,” said a senior official at the zoowho didn’t want to be named.

A letter accessed by Hindustan Times, written by the zoo’s veterinary officer Abhijit Bhawal to zoo director Renu Singh on September 1, corroborated this. “Further incidence of plastic in the stomach of the Cape Buffalo has raised many questions. Hence, I would request you to kindly take the matter seriously,” the letter said.

Singh and Bhawal refused to comment.The zoo’s curator RA Khan confirmed the death of the animal, but said he was “clueless” about the cause as the post-mortem report was with the zoo director.

“Delhi is a declared no-plastic zone. But it remains only on paper. Visitors enter the zoo freely with plastic bags and even throw them everywhere inside the premises. There is no check,” said animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, trustee of the People for Animals, a non-governmental organisation.

In his Independence Day speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens to avoid using plastic bags and rid themselves of the habit of using single-use plastic by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Delhi zoo had two Cape buffaloes, one of which died of tuberculosis in February 2017. Inhabitants of woodland savannas, large herds of African buffaloes are encountered in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, with smaller herds in Zululand and the Eastern Cape. Cape Buffaloes are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths.

The letter written by Bhawal also mentions a meeting of the zoo’s health committee on August 7 where the issue of lack of cleanliness in the zoo was raised. “The members of the health committee have also conveyed that cleanliness and hygiene in the National Zoological Park is not good. AM Pawde (head of the wildlife department at the Bareilly-based Indian Veterinary Research Institute) has specifically pointed out lapses in the cleanliness around enclosures,” said the letter.

The letter also lists a slew of measures that need to be taken inside the zoo and staff quarters to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria.

Some zoo officials said it was not the first time that an animal in the zoo had died after eating plastic. In the early 1990s, a kangaroo was suspected to have died after consuming plastic.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. The zoo should be kept clean, particularly the area around enclosures,” said BS Bonal, former member-secretary of the Central Zoo Authority.

First Published: Sep 05, 2019 05:25 IST