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Zoo compromises on feed for turtles, crocs

Updated October 05, 2014
An ailing Bactrian camel with visible injuries is  in its enclosure for public view in the absence of quarantine at the zoo where a sick animal may recuperate.—White Star
An ailing Bactrian camel with visible injuries is in its enclosure for public view in the absence of quarantine at the zoo where a sick animal may recuperate.—White Star

KARACHI: Water birds, turtles and crocodiles at the zoo have not been properly fed for the past few months apparently because the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has not paid dues to contractors despite earning millions of rupees every year from the facility, it emerged on Saturday.

In three months the animals — which used to be fed on fish on a daily basis — have been served with fish only thrice, according to sources. A zookeeper said: “There has been a major reduction in quality and quantity of feed over the months though everything on paper seems fine.”

The KMC, which manages all recreational facilities across the city, earns around Rs40 million annually from the zoo, but not a single rupee is given to the zoo administration to make timely payment to the contractors and address emergency needs, according to the sources.

Delay in release of fund and lack of financial autonomy, the sources said, were also affecting zoo projects including the reconstruction of a quarantine facility. “This is disturbing as we are compelled to keep sick animals for exhibition, while the animals suffering from injuries and illnesses have no place to rest in peace away from public view,” said an official, complaining that delay in payment of salaries to zoo staff and feed contractors had become a matter of routine.

He particularly mentioned the ailing Bactrian camel and Bengal tiger that spent months in pain in their enclosures but were never isolated and kept in the quarantine as the facility had been under construction. “The construction work is still incomplete,” he said.

A zoo official said a former KMC administrator had issued a notification that the zoo would be given 20 per cent of its annual income but that order was yet to be implemented.

The sources said the KMC income from the zoo had increased from Rs20.17 million in 2011-12 to Rs30.7m last year. This year, the KMC increased zoo entry fee after setting the revenue target of Rs40.26m in its 2014 budget.

The entry fee contract, the sources said, was awarded for over Rs20m this year whereas it had been given for around Rs10m last year.

“We have to request in writing for every single item that is required and it often takes weeks and months for approval. Feed contractors have recently warned the zoo administration of stopping supplies if payments were not paid in coming weeks,” said a zoo staff member.

Another factor badly affecting zoo affairs, the sources said, was the hiring of unqualified staff. The zoo director like his predecessor, they said, had no qualification in animal care while most zookeepers were actually sweepers whose hiring, too, was based on a political basis.

“The zoo is just a source to make money for the KMC and nothing else. You would either laugh or cry if you come to know that no one at this zoo, that claims to have around 100 mammals, is able to conduct a minor operation. The operating theatre has lost its utility and it is not even used for a post-mortem examination that is conducted on the ground in an isolated area,” said a retired zoo staff.

When asked, zoo director Fahim Khan, who has earlier served in the KMC administration, admitted that the feed suppliers had warned about their liabilities that amounted to from Rs20m to Rs30m. “But we are managing feed supplies and presently there is no shortage. Funds for the quarantine have been released and the remaining 20 per cent work will be completed soon,” he insisted, rejecting the information that animals were being deprived of sufficient feed.

However, he conceded that the zoo lacked financial autonomy and it received nothing from its annual earning that was around Rs40.5m. “The income goes directly into the KMC account,” he said.

Asked about the use of the operating theatre and post-mortem examination, he said: “We have had no operation at the hospital since I have been here [for more than a year]. I think there is a room inside the hospital where post-mortem is conducted but I am not sure. Actually, a post-mortem is not done in my presence.”

Senior KMC director for culture, sports and recreation Rehan Khan was not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014