KARACHI, Dec 23: The Karachi Zoological Gardens recently witnessed the births of six mammalian species, zoo staff told Dawn.

Four calves and two fawns were born to nilgai and deer, giving a boost to the zoo population which had suffered a setback over the past few months following the deaths of five animals, including a leopard, a nilgai and three white deer.

“Four calves have been born to four nilgai while two fawns, a male and a female, were born to two pairs of white and spotted deer species,” said a zoo veterinarian, Dr Mehwish Mir Abbasi. “All the babies are healthy.”

With the latest addition of four calves and two fawns, the total number of births this year at the Karachi zoo rose to 26. Before these, six fawns were born to spotted deer, black buck and hog deer (two to each pair), a calf to a Bactrian camel, four chicks to peacocks, eight fawns to fallow deer and three fawns were born to white fallow deer.

“The total number of nilgai in the zoo now is 15, white fallow deer 11, hog deer 7, spotted deer 12, Bactrian camel 2, black buck 17 and fallow deer 36,” said Dr Abbasi.

Looking satisfied with the recent births, the zoo directer, Bashir Saddozai, said that the Karachi zoo had come a long way from its past image and it was evident by the large number of people visiting the facility every day.

“The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation administrator is taking personal interest in zoo affairs. It has helped us bring in new animals and make necessary appointments of a zoologist and a vet,” he said.

The zoo, according to Mr Saddozai, was now performing its key functions of public education and animal conservation. “A gift shop will soon open where people can get informative material about zoo animals,” he said. “We are also planning to hold a zoo day early next year.”

When asked why the big cats were still without a cub, Mr Saddozai highlighted the need for upgrading more than 100-year-old cages. "The Lahore and Bhawalpur zoos were set up as facilities for captive animals. But this wasn't the case here,” he said.

“Karachi zoo was initially a place to grow vegetables and fruits for the British forces. It was converted to a zoo after a long time.”

He said that animals needed to feel comfortable and happy to be able to breed and this happened when the environment they lived in was similar to their natural habitat. However, he said, the zoo management was striving hard to fill the gaps.

Over the past three months, the zoo has also seen the deaths of a female leopard, a female Shetland pony, a female red deer, a male Chacma baboon and a nilgai. Three of these animals died within four days in October. Lack of care emerged as the major factor which contributed to the deaths of animals.

The biggest loss to the zoo, however, was when four cubs born after decades to a pair of lions died soon after birth. Three cubs had been found in the lion’s cage while the fourth one was reported missing.

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