The jackals appear to be ferocious at the loss of their babies at the Karachi Zoo. - Photo by White Star

KARACHI: Three pups born to a pair of common jackals went missing only a day after their birth at the Karachi Zoological Gardens last week, sources told Dawn.

It is the second incident in seven months at the zoo in which newborns of a carnivore species have gone missing. Earlier, a lion cub went missing while three others were found dead at the zoo. An inquiry into the case held the zoo staff responsible for the incident and called for a police investigation. However, there has been no progress in the case.

Speaking to Dawn, Bashir Saddozai, the zoo director, said: “Two babies, not three, were born to a female jackal. An inquiry into the case showed that the babies were eaten by their mother and this was proved by the traces of hair found in the animal’s faeces the other day.

“The incident occurred on a strike day and, according to the report, firing and law and order troubles in the area might have disturbed the animal. I have also sought a laboratory report.”

Admitting lapses on part of the staff in animal care, Mr Saddozai said he was trying his best to bring an improvement, though he didn’t have relevant professional qualification to head a zoo.

“No doubt the zoo desperately needs qualified staff. When I joined three months ago and found only one qualified person to work with. The rest of the staff responsible for animal care was actually sweepers. In recent weeks, however, we have been able to appoint a vet and two young zoologists and have requested for more professionals,” he said.

Replying to a question regarding the deaths of four deer species over the past weeks, he said the incident occurred while he was abroad but he would look into it as well.

Giving his expert opinion, Dr Fakhar-i-Abbas, wildlife biologist heading Bioresource Research Centre in Islamabad, said that carnivore species could eat up their babies if they were disturbed by humans and deprived of privacy.

“Special care is needed in captive breeding at the time of birth. The animals should be isolated and given complete privacy. It is simply mismanagement of the staff if the mother eats up its own babies,” he said, adding that since jackal was a carnivore the presence of hair traces wouldn’t be enough to determine whether the mother had eaten up its own baby and a DNA analysis of the faecal matter was required to get correct information.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, jackals are not a threatened species and are classed as ‘Least Concern’.

There are four species of jackal, the common jackal (Canis aureus), the side-striped jackal (Canis adustus) and the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and the very rare Simien jackal.

Common jackals, also called the golden jackals, are the most widely distributed of all the jackal species and are native to the Middle East, Afghanistan, north-western India, Iran, Iraq, the Arabian peninsula and Pakistan.

Jackals are true members of the dog family and can actually interbreed with both dogs and wolves, according to the information available on the net.