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77 animals died at Mumbai’s Byculla zoo in 2016-17, the most in 6 years

Mumbai zoo officials said majority of the deaths were owing to old-age

mumbai Updated: Aug 14, 2017 09:25 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Byculla zoo,Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyaan,animal deaths
State forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that the mortality rate is worrisome.(HT File)

In a not so pleasant piece of news for Mumbai’s animal lovers, 77 animals, birds and reptiles died at the city’s only zoo at Byculla over the past year. The animal inventory data from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) revealed that the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyaan, popularly known as Rani Baug, lost the highest number of animals in the past six years in 2016-17.

The zoo, which gets around 4,000 visitors every day, now has 388 animals, birds and reptiles. There are 54 species under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, 182 Schedule-II and IV species and 152 exotic species.

The mortality rate at the zoo, which was setup in 1862, making it the oldest in Maharashtra, has been steadily increasing since 2011. The zoo witnessed 70 animal deaths in 2015-16; 72 deaths in 2014-15; 40 deaths in 2013-14; 39 in 2012-13 and 34 in 2011-12.

However, 151 animals and birds, including alligators, a lioness, some deer and a hippopotamus, died in 2010-11 – the most in a year in the past decade.

Zoo officials said majority of the deaths were owing to old-age. “We observed a similar trend this year as compared to what had happened in 2010-11, when mortality rate was high. Apart from deaths owing to old age for mammals, bird species died of natural causes,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, Byculla zoo director. “Proper medical treatment was provided, with each and every case getting individual attention.”

Animal activists, however, refuted the claims made by zoo officials and alleged that the condition of the zoo is deplorable and animals had suffered owing to a host of environmental problems during the revamp.

In 2012, a Rs150-crore revamp plan for the zoo was proposed by a foreign agency and a consultant was appointed after the layout plan was approved by the CZA. The construction work for an Interpretation Centre building, asphalting of internal roads, restoration of heritage structures, a zoo hospital, an animal quarantine area, peripheral wall and service roads is underway.

“The constant movement of trucks within the zoo premises led to both air and noise pollution. Also, improper management of cages and insufficient treatment of water bodies (home to hippopotamus, crocodiles, etc) has led to the deaths,” said Sunish Subramaniam Kunju, secretary, Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS-Mumbai), a NGO that has been filing regular complaints against the zoo since 2005. “We will be writing to the state forest department to take up the matter.”

State forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that the mortality rate is worrisome. “The forest department, under the aegis of the state, is not responsible for matters related to the Byculla zoo as it is under the purview of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). But we will be highlighting the matter to the central government to look into the issue,” he said.

A senior CZA official said that they were aware of the spike in deaths at the Mumbai zoo. “We are still collating data from other zoos across the country to complete our animal inventory data. We will ask for a detailed report from the Byculla zoo, listing out the cause of death of all animals in 2016-17, along with post-mortem reports,” said the official.

Opened as a botanical garden by the agri-horticultural society of western India in 1862, the zoo was handed over to the BMC in 1873. From August 1 this year, the civic body increased the 53-acre park’s entry fee from Rs5 to Rs50 for adults and Rs100 for a family of two adults and two children. The hike in entry fee has resulted in an average daily revenue of Rs50,000.

The civic body also spent Rs2.57 crore to buy eight Humboldt penguins from South Korea in July last year, originally found in the cold climes of coastal Peru and Chile. Three months later, one of them, a one-and-a-half-year-old female penguin, Dory, died at the zoo’s quarantined section owing to liver dysfunction and an intestinal infection.

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 09:24 IST