KARACHI, Aug 19: There has been no new induction into the zoo museum for three years despite the fact that a large number of animals have died during this period. Of them, about 35 mammals and over 40 birds died in one-and-a-half years alone, Dawn has learnt.

Sources said that no animal skin, except that of a Shetland pony that died in May, has been given for stuffing during the last two years. Over a dozen animals, which included the skins of a bear, a spotted deer, a pair each of white and blue peacocks and a jackal, have been lying with a private taxidermist for over two years on account of the zoo administration’s failure to arrange the agreed amount of money for the placement of an order.According to sources, many dead animals were simply buried in the zoo courtyard while the skins of others stored in a refrigerator had spoiled due to frequent electricity breakdowns. It is feared that the zoo administration might burn the damaged skins to dispose them.

The zoo now has only one refrigerator in working order that is being used for keeping animal skins as well as meat for big cats. Some skins have reportedly been kept at the zoo’s museum.

“The skins of many rare animals have been ruined only because the zoo lacks an efficient system of handing over skins to a taxidermist. Often, the animal skins given for stuffing are already damaged due to which the stuffed products fail to have a natural look,” said a zoo employee, adding that the post of taxidermist had been vacant at the zoo for many years after the death of a former taxidermist.

The animals that died this year include three neelgais, three red deer, a Shetland pony and over 40 partridges. Last year the zoo had lost as many as 27 animals, including 12 spotted deer, a puma, a black leopard, two Bengal tigresses (one of which was killed by its mate), six fallow deer fawns, two blue bulls, a blackbuck, a red deer and a jackal. Reportedly, many of them died because of a blood parasite that was later identified as trypanosomiasis.

According to zoo sources, though the skin of the Bengal tiger is still ‘safe’ in the refrigerator, the skins of the puma and the male black leopard have got ruined and are no longer in a condition to be stuffed. “Both animals died over a year ago. Power outages have damaged the skins beyond repair and perhaps need to be disposed of. The museum already has an exhibit of a black panther so there was no need to keep the skin of the other one,” said a staffer.

A stuffed replication of the puma, also called cougar or mountain lion, would have been an informative induction into the zoo museum, sources say. A near threatened species native to the Americas, the puma pair’s entry to the zoo was historic back in 2005. The exotic animal was the first of its species to be inducted into the Karachi Zoological Garden in its 137-year-old history. Unfortunately, the young adult pair bought for Rs1.15 million through a tender died within two years of their induction.

“Considering the fact that it has become nearly impossible to import exotic animals under the ban imposed by the CITES convention, the zoo officials should have kept the memories of the puma, if not the animal itself, by producing it as an exhibit after its death,” said a source, adding that a lack of provision of an environment closer to the natural habitat of an animal, shortages of funds and competent staff are the major reasons why the zoo is in such a pathetic state.

The zoo museum is also in need of improvement and extension, a visit to the place showed. Among other things, the exhibits poorly stuffed with straw are fast losing their original form, as it seems the zoo administration doesn’t carry out periodic fumigation to protect them against insects. Besides, in the absence of any detailed information attached, the over 130 exhibits do not add much to the visitors’ knowledge.

Zoo officials could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts.

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