Five blackbucks dead as infighting breaks out among herds at Delhi Zoo

Allegations have surfaced that the animals started fighting after they got scared and traumatised when the zoo authorities allowed renovation work inside the enclosure without shifting them.

delhi Updated: Aug 24, 2018 08:23 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi zoo,blackbucks
The noise of hammers breaking the night shelter of the blackbucks, dumping of cement bags and the scattered debris traumatised the animals inside Delhi zoo (pictured), which reportedly then started to fight among themselves. (Joydeep Thakur)

At least five blackbucks died and a few others were injured in the National Zoological Park in Delhi because of infighting among the herd since April this year.

Allegations have surfaced that the animals started fighting after they got scared and traumatised when the zoo authorities allowed renovation work inside the enclosure without shifting them.

The noise of hammers breaking the night shelter of the animals, labourers working there from morning till sunset, dumping of cement bags and the scattered debris traumatised the black bucks, which started to fight among themselves.

Some were fatally wounded and eyes gorged out. The last death was reported on Monday.

“Work has been stopped. I have ordered an enquiry into the deaths,” said Renu Singh, director of the Delhi Zoo.

Blackbucks are protected animals under the Schedule I of the Wildlife Act since 1972. Tiger, leopard, elephant, pangolin, monitor lizards, pythons fall in the same category. A Jodhpur court has convicted actor Salman Khan in a blackbuck poaching case earlier in April this year.

The renovation of the permanent shelter started in May this year. The antelopes used to take shelter there during rain and other weather conditions. Sometimes, injured animals used to take shelter to avoid the herd.

The authorities used to treat the injured animal inside the shelter by separating it from the herd. Their feeding platforms and water resources were also there.

A zoo official said permission to break the shelter was given without building any temporary shelter or setting up any barricade to isolate the animals.

“The animals used to get scared and traumatised whenever labourers used to work there, making a deafening noise as they broke the single floor building. They used to huddle up in small herds during rains in the open space, as there were no other shelters. This led to more infighting. The stressed animals used to fight among themselves often,” said a zoo keeper.

“While one animal died in April, the second one died in July. In August, three blackbucks died. The cement bags might have been kept there just for one day and have been removed. At present, no work is going on. Most of the animals that died had grown old. Infighting is common among herd animals,” said Manoj, biological assistant of the Delhi Zoo who goes to by his first name.

A senior zoo official, however, said the post mortem report mentions they were ‘traumatised’ and died of ‘infighting’. Zoo veterinarian Abhijit Bhawal could not be contacted for his comments.

“Renovation in zoos is round-the-year work. The animals should have been shifted to another enclosure before undertaking such work, failing which they can suffer from stress and trauma. Even though animals in zoo adapt themselves to the noise of light vehicles and onlookers, any loud and unusual noise can traumatise them,” Rajesh Gopal, former member secretary of the Central Zoo Authority, said.

The only zoological park in the country to come under the direct administration of the Union government, it has already come under the scanner of the Delhi High Court after a PIL was filed mentioning a series of irregularities and controversies, including suppression of animal deaths, illegally capturing animals to replace the dead, expired drugs being administered to animals, illegally procuring Ketamine and portions of a rhino horn going missing. The PIL was filed based on at least eight reports by the CZA and other agencies filed since 2016.

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 01:41 IST