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KARACHI, Nov 21: The lone leopard at the Karachi zoo, whose death came to light only after the relevant zoo officials made public the Bengal tiger’s death a few days ago, had spent its last days in a cage earlier used by hyenas and jackals, it emerged on Wednesday.

The big cat gifted to the city district government of Karachi by the NWFP wildlife department in 2006 was among the six animals that died over the past two months in the zoo.

The poor animal had suffered a lot at different captive facilities under the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation over the past seven years and it is believed that neglect in care contributed to its death.

Initially kept in a turkey cage in Safari Park, it was then shifted to a small cage with a cemented floor to the Landhi-Korangi zoo and later to the Karachi zoo.Inquiries and a recent visit to the zoo showed that the female leopard was shifted from a larger enclosure specifically made for big cats to a smaller cage used for hyenas and jackals to provide space to the newly purchased pumas in July.

There was no provision for soil and a shaded area covered with twigs as well as small stone caves in the enclosure as were available in the big cat’s earlier enclosure. The carcass of a crow and rotten fruit dotted the cage where a baboon died two months ago, reportedly after being hit by a tranquiliser gunshot.

The surviving female baboon was seen alone in its cage, touching and licking other females of the same species through the grille as the zoo administration had not yet transferred the animal to the adjacent cage reserved for the baboon.

All zoo cages are without any details about when and how the animals arrived at the facility, leaving one with no other option but to accept the zoo administration’s claim about the animal’s age.

Information gathered from zoo officials also showed that three animals died within four days last month. A Shetland pony (female) died on Oct 10, a red deer (female) on Oct 11 and a leopard (female) on Oct 13. Two other animals, a male Chacma baboon and nilgai, also died in October.

“The Chacma baboon (also known as cape baboon), Shetland pony, leopard and nilgai were all very old, though the immediate causes of their deaths varied. The Shetland pony had been under treatment for 10 months while its immediate cause of death was a lung infection. The leopard had a sudden death due to heart failure,” zoo vet Dr Aamir said while rejecting the report that the baboon sitting in a tree fell to death on the concrete floor after being hit by a tranquilliser gunshot.

He insisted that the big cat had no history of illness. Regarding the baboon’s death, he said: “It was neither sick nor being treated for injuries. It was just its old age. It had been here for a long time and the cause of death recorded in its post-mortem report was old age,” he added.

The red deer, he said, died after suffering severe injuries in a fight twice with a male species while the nilgai due to ‘old age’.

Answering a question regarding the leopard cage’s suitability, zoologist Abida Raees, an official of the Karachi zoo, said the entire top management of the zoo was involved in the decision to change a cage and it was not an individual initiative.

“Besides, the cage chosen for the leopard was big enough. While the leopard was in its old enclosure, it was always found in its concrete-floored retiring room. So, it didn’t matter if its cage had no other facilities in the old cage,” she said.

When asked about the Chacma baboons’ age and arrival at the zoo, she said she would give the details in a few minutes. However, later she was not available on phone.