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Baby leopard gecko dies in zoo

Updated August 08, 2013

KARACHI, Aug 7: A baby leopard gecko handed over to the Karachi zoo for safe keeping by the customs department more than a week ago was found dead in its enclosure on Tuesday morning, sources told Dawn.

According to sources, the baby leopard gecko was brought to Karachi from Malaysia through a Thai Airways flight number TG-507 on July 15 and handed over to the zoo over a week ago.

Moreover, officials at the customs department and Karachi zoo were unable to identify which species the baby leopard gecko belonged to. When Dawn emailed the photographs of the dead gecko to Dr Fakhar-i-Abbas, wildlife biologist and founder of Bioresource Research Centre in Islamabad, he identified the gecko as the baby of a leopard gecko also called Hun Khun in Sindhi.

“Although leopard geckos are commonly found throughout Sindh and Balochistan, they are under immense pressure from hunters as the species are a popular pet abroad,” said Dr Abbas, adding that there was a misconception that the reptile was highly venomous.

According to information available on the internet, the leopard gecko (scientific name: Eublepharis macularius) is a nocturnal ground-dwelling lizard naturally found in the deserts of Asia, throughout Pakistan and in the northwestern parts of India. Geckos come in a wide range of colours, patterns and textures. Unlike most geckos, leopard geckos possess movable eyelids. “Leopard geckos make great pets for older children and adults and can live for about 20 years or more. They are easy to feed as they eat only insects,” says Pets At Home website.

Meanwhile, the assistant collector customs Amjad Rajpar expressed regret over what he called the zoo staff’s failure to handle reptiles and the resulting loss of the gecko. “We are planning to call a meeting after Eid to discuss the options available to the customs department in case of animal confiscation. We can’t keep the animals in our custody for long and need to have a facility where animals could be provided good care,” he said.

The consignment, he said, was brought by Zameer Shad Noor who had the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) certificate but could not produce an import permit from the ministry of climate change that oversees animal imports.

When questioned why the reptile remained in the custody of the customs for several days, Mr Rajpar explained that it was because the customs department was constantly being informed that the importer would arrange the permit in a day or two. “But they couldn’t and we had to hand over the lizard to the zoo,” he said.

According to Syed Aqeel Tazeem Naqvi, additional zoo director, the lizard had stopped eating for some days. “We are thinking of hiring a zoo consultant for reptile care as well as arrange training of our staff in this area,” he said.

It is worth mentioning that at least 10 baby pythons have died in Karachi zoo in recent months. The reptiles, along with 21 other pythons, were handed over to the zoo for safe keeping by the customs department five months ago. Among the reptiles a 17-foot-long reticulated python and a 12-foot-long albino reticulated python, first went ‘missing’ from the Safari Park and then reportedly died there. No official version, however, is available on pythons’ death despite several attempts by Dawn to get in touch with them.