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Wrong leopards, dead blackbucks in botched exchange between zoos

An exchange of animals between National Zoological Park in Delhi and Chhattisgarh’s Nandan Van zoo has gone horribly wrong, with the former alleging that two leopards it got from Naya Raipur are not those it had been promised.

delhi Updated: Sep 12, 2018 06:23 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
leopard,blackbuck,National Zoological Park
The Raipur zoo’s response is that the leopards are the same, but they were just marked with the wrong microchips. (HT/Picture for representation)

A leopard may not to able to change its spots, but the same cannot be said about its microchip.

An exchange of animals between the National Zoological Park in Delhi and Naya Raipur’s Nandan Van zoo has gone horribly wrong, with the Delhi zoo alleging that the two leopards it got from Chhattisgarh are not the two it had been promised, according to officials familiar with the developments.

The Raipur zoo’s response is that the leopards are the same, but they were just marked with the wrong microchips.

“We got the wrong leopards. The numbers on the microchips that were inserted in the animals’ tails for identification are different from the ones that were specified in the exchange programme. The leopards also seem to be younger than the ones we had selected. We are planning to identify their exact age through a DNA analysis,” said RA Khan, curator of Delhi’s National Zoological Park. “The leopards are the same as was mentioned in the agreement. Only that they were marked with the wrong microchips,” asserted JK Jadia, assistant veterinary surgeon of Nandan Van zoo, who was part of the team that brought the leopards to Delhi.

Carnivores such as lions, tigers and leopards and big herbivores such as elephants have microchips inserted in their bodies for identification purposes — like an Aadhaar number for animals.

This is not the end of the problems between the two zoos.

The Raipur zoo has said five out of the 50 blackbucks that were sent to it from Delhi in August, in exchange for the leopards, had died within three days of reaching their new home. “We had loaded the blackbucks onto a truck, and they reached the Raipur zoo three days later. Five of the antelopes died because of heavy rain. The rest reached safely,” said Jadia.

Both blackbucks and leopards are given the highest level of protection in India – like tigers and elephants – and are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Following the confusion, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), the apex body for monitoring zoos across India, in a letter addressed to the authorities of the Delhi zoo, threatened to “put on hold all approved animal exchange programmes.” The letter, a copy of which is in possession of Hindustan Times, alleged the Delhi zoo violated guidelines and protocols laid down by the CZA for transporting captive wild animals.

“We are not at fault for the wrong leopards coming in. We had followed all guidelines. The Raipur zoo officials had all of a sudden come down to Delhi with the leopards. We have already replied to the CZA,” said Renu Singh, director of the National Zoological Park.

HT tried contacting DN Singh, the member-secretary of CZA, but calls and messages went unanswered.

The Delhi zoo recently got an approval from CZA to undertake one of the largest animal exchange programmes. Nearly 200 animals, including tigers, hippos, rhinos and various species of birds, are listed for exchange.

The National Zoological Park in Delhi is the only zoo in India to be directly administered by 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. Rajesh Gopal, a former member of secretary of CZA, said: “The authority has laid down guidelines, which are also available on their websites, and should be strictly followed.”

First Published: Sep 12, 2018 02:11 IST

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