ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: In the last five years, Islamabad’s only zoo lost more than 80 animals belonging to precious species due to various diseases, mostly pneumonia and bird flu.

In a written reply to a question of MNA Nafisa Shah of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the minister in charge of Cabinet Division on Wednesday told the National Assembly that 66 animals died in the last five years. An official of the Marghzar Zoo later told Dawn that some 20 birds also died in the zoo due to bird flu virus.

The reply submitted by the government shows that most of the animals died during winter season due to “pneumonia and fracture”. A spotted deer died even during its transportation from Lahore to the zoo.

Other animals died due to arthritics, paralysis, lungs congestion, liver rupture, clostridial infection, dystopia, heat stroke, diarrhoea, urine infection, head injuries, dystopia pneumonia, intestinal torsion, compound fracture and blood loss in blow injuries.

Though no number has been mentioned but according to the zoo authorities some four to six animals were killed due to predation by wild leopards.

It says that 23 species of animals are kept at Murghzar Zoo and out of these mortality has occurred in 15 species in the last five years (from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2008).

Interestingly, there is no mention of the deaths due to bird flu which hit many parts of the country including Islamabad. However, the zoo authorities told Dawn that about 20 birds including ducks, turkeys and peacocks died due to bird flu virus.

The reply shows that during the last five years as many as 20 black bucks, 10 urial, eight hog deer, seven chinkara, seven grey coral, four common leopards including two cubs and two civet cats had also died. Besides, one lion, a nilgai, a marsh crocodile, a yalk, a spotted deer, a grey wolf, a barking deer and a jackal also died of various diseases.

The only lion of the zoo died “due to old age and arthritics” whereas nilgai died due to “paralysis”. Liver rupture and lungs congestion were the reasons for the death of two civet cats while d a yak died due to clostridial infection, a deadly disease that strikes cattle suddenly, often causing death even before any clinical signs are observed. The bacteria that cause this disease create spores that are very hardy and can live for long period of time in the environment, even in extreme heat, cold or moisture. These spores are found everywhere in the environment and can easily be picked up by grazing cattle or enter the body through a wound. The bacteria multiply rapidly in damaged tissue and release toxins that travel through the bloodstream.

Marsh crocodile which otherwise seems to be a tough animal died when the temperature fell to minus three degrees Celsius in Islamabad in January this year. The crocodile also died due to pneumonia.

Seven grey corals including two fawns died due to urine infection, head injuries, pneumonia and predation by wild animals.

When contacted, director of the zoo Raja Javed claimed that the number of died animals was not very high if compared to mortality rates in other zoos. Moreover, he said, the birth rate in the zoo was more than the mortality rate and which was evident from the fact that the number of animals was constantly increasing and presently there were about 350 animals in the zoo.

Explaining the reasons for the deaths of animals due to injuries and fractures, he said almost all the animals, particularly male species, had an instinct of fighting with each other. He said the zoo administration kept an eye on the animals’ behaviour and always separated males from main herds to reduce blow injuries and minimum stress to animals in enclosures to reduce heart failure cases. However, he said, sometimes it happened that stronger animals attacked the weak and they hit them hard during normal movement. He said most of the deaths occurred due to natural phenomena like blow injuries and heart failure but precautionary steps were being taken to avert such incidents.

About the medical facilities, Mr Javed said a full time doctor always remained present in the zoo with an assistant to provide medical facilities to the animals. He said the zoo administration also possessed sufficient amount of drugs and medicines. Meanwhile, the National Assembly was also informed that the authorities had taken various steps to protect animals and reduce mortalities. According to the reply submitted by the concerned ministry, the authorities have taken steps to carry out monthly faecal laboratory tests and immediate treatment facilities are provided on the basis of these reports. Similarly, it said spray of cages and enclosures and fogging of entire zoo area was being carried out. The efforts are also under way to provide cleaner environment to the animals to keep them healthy and active.