BAHAWALPUR, Sept 20: The Punjab government has failed to maintain the zoological gardens in the city.

Once an attraction for the visitors because of a variety of animals and birds, it has now been reduced to a picture of neglect. Most cages remain without animals or birds.

A lack of maintenance, improper animal breeding and official apathy have contributed to its downfall. The office of the director general wildlife is mainly responsible for the transfer of several animals and birds to other zoos in various parts of the province.

It is learnt that during previous years the DG wildlife shifted a number of animals to other zoos under the “exchange programme”. The local zoo was not compensated in the programme and was deprived of its animals.

The zoo once possessed lions some of which were sold to a private circus company to earn handsome amount and others were sent to other zoos. A lion was sent to Dera Ghazi Khan Zoo from where it was shifted to Vehari. The 25-year old lion fell ill and was sent back to Bahawalpur where it is lying paralysed.

The zoo is also without children’s main attraction -- elephant -- for the last nine years. It was in 2004 when the last female elephant died and since then the Punjab Wildlife Department had failed to purchase a new elephant despite its annual income of millions of rupees.

During the last two years, Dawn learnt, a sum ranging between Rs6.8 million and Rs8.8 million had been allocated for the purpose but the amount lapsed. Another Rs16 million had been provided in the current year’s budget for the purchase of an elephant but nothing had been done so far. There was a plan to import elephant under the International Convention for Trade of Endangered Species from some African country but the DG wildlife has yet to invite tenders.

The provincial government may increase the zoo’s annual budget the installment of first quarter of Rs1.5 million has so far been released.

Zoo Curator Muhammad Nadeem Qureshi said he had drawn the DG’s attention towards the need to have some animals and birds to overcome shortage. Last year, he said, a monkey house worth Rs46 million had been added to the zoo.

He pointed out that the under-ground sewerage system of the zoo was doing a great deal of damage and it must be replaced. He said seven peacocks had died of infection due to this problem and a lack of care in the last one month or so.

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