KARACHI: The city zoo suffered a major blow on Thursday when it lost its last surviving puma cub, sources told Dawn.
The cub, they said, was apparently mauled to death by adult pumas housed in the adjacent part of the enclosure, which was separated from the cub-mother area with an iron grille.
The tragic incident, sources said, happened the day when the cub, being hand-reared by the zoo staff, was to become a two-month-old.
“Initially, the staff couldn’t find the baby when they went to feed it in the morning in its enclosure that the cub shared with the mother.
“Later, its mauled body was spotted in the adjacent enclosure housing a pair of pumas,” said a zoo official on condition of anonymity.
The cub was brutally attacked; its back along with hind legs was eaten away while there were severe injuries on its throat.
“I am hugely disappointed. We were so sure that it will live and survive successfully,” said zoo director Fahim Khan, adding that the senior director culture, sports and recreation Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had inspected the zoo enclosure after being informed about the incident.
He accused his staff of negligence and said, “I am not satisfied with their version of the incident. They are claiming that the cub sneaked into the adjacent area and was killed by the pumas.
“But, it’s unbelievable since both portions were separated with an iron grille. With the size the cub had, it’s virtually not possible that it could sneak into the other portion or caught away by adult pumas. Besides, it’s the third time we had births at the same place and there was no such incident in the past,” he insisted.
The first report on the incident, he said, had been sent to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) administrator in which he was requested to suspend the concerned zoo staff and order an inquiry.
The cub was one of the three pumas born at the zoo two months ago. Two of them died last month; one reportedly got infected with tetanus while the other’s death was blamed on “malnutrition” which it developed after the mother stopped feeding it properly.
“These deaths just indicate how incompetent the zoo staff is. Why they couldn’t see in time that the cubs were not sufficiently fed by the mother and, above all, what was the reason of keeping the cub in a vulnerable place?” asked a frustrated veterinary expert, while calling upon the government either to make merit-based appointments at the zoo or close down the facility.
The zoo, sources said, had a poor survival rate of newborns mainly because of staff incompetency and the highly compromised environment in which animals are forced to live in.
In recent years, four puma cubs have died, though two babies survived. In 2011, the zoo had its first lion births in decades. Three cubs, however, died within a week of their birth while the other was said to be “eaten up by the mother”.
Since then, there has been no reported birth in any other big cats, two pairs of lions and Bengal tigers, housed at the zoo for a long time.
While officials blamed “nature” for the lack of births, the sources said professional care and handling was important to encourage lions and tigers to breed in captivity.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016