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Two more animals die at zoo

June 25, 2012

KARACHI, June 25: The Karachi Zoological Gardens on Monday lost a male urial (a wild sheep) only a day after a nilgai calf (an antelope) had died, sources said.

The sources added that the urial (Ovis orientalist vignei) received fatal injuries when it ran into a fence, while the nilgai calf (Boselaphus tragocamelus) had been hit by an adult of the same species.

Just last week, one of the two surviving female cassowaries at the zoo had died of some liver infection.

The urial, a protected species in the country, had arrived at the zoo along with a female about two months back when a private mini-zoo owner had exchanged them with three deer housed in the city zoo.

The zoo administration, as reported in a section of the media, had signed the agreement in order to have a new species but without a Sindh wildlife department permit, which is mandatory to acquire protected species under the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance, 1974.

No action has been taken by the wildlife department against the zoo so far.

After the loss the animals belonging to the Bovidae family over the past two days, the zoo has been left with 12 nilgai and a female urial.

“Both the animals were healthy. The nilgai calf died when it was hit by a bigger male of the same species, whereas the urial ran into its fence when it got panicked,” said Dr Kazim Hussain, senior vet currently heading the zoo. He added that the wild sheep could not adapt to the zoo environment and were still very shy of humans.

The zoo, he said, had a small herd of urial in the 1980s.

Regarding the nilgai calf’s death, he said that adult males normally did not hit calves and that was why the seven-month-old baby was kept with the herd. “Five male nilgai in surplus have already been separated from females and will soon be shifted to Safari Park along with a few black bucks,” he said.

‘Deadly’ fence

In reply to a question about frequent mortalities at the zoo, Dr Hussain explained that in some cases, it was the old fence that caused animal deaths and, though, the fence of a number of enclosures had been changed and replaced with a flexible railing, a few enclosures were still left that had the old hard steel barrier.

“These will be replaced, too, as an uplift project is currently in progress at the zoo with the fund of Rs58 million allocated by the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC),” he said.

Dr Hussain said: “We have recently replaced the soil in almost half of the enclosures housing the herbivores. This has been done after almost 22 years, which explains why the zoo had a high rate of infection, especially among the newborns.

“One can imagine how much the animals with fresh soil under their feet would be enjoying and the restlessness of others,” he said.

The zoo, he said, had also sent a request to the relevant authorities for an increase in staff members and it was hoped eight to 10 zookeepers would be inducted soon.

He admitted that the zoo had no system in place for zookeepers’ training and there was a dire need for one.

About the amount the zoo generates, he said the annual income was about Rs30 million, which was deposited in the KMC treasury.

The zoo received head-wise allocations, he added.

According to Dr Hussain, there have been 15 births in mammals and eight peacock chicks have hatched out in one month at the zoo.

As for mortalities, it is worth noting here that a female cassowary, a male wallaby, two ostrich chicks, a male Arabian Oryx and three deer species died this year at the zoo.