273 animals die in four months at Bannerghatta zoo

Authorities blame inadequate infrastructure, lack of vets

BANGALORE: At first glance things appear to be going well for the sprawling Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP), where exotic and endangered wildlife draw lakhs of tourists every year. But a closer look reveals an alarming statistic: in the last four months alone, 273 animals have died there.

Zoo authorities attribute this to inadequate infrastructure, lack of veterinary personnel and unscientific enclosures, among other factors. The casualties, recorded between July and October, include 27 spotted deer that died of haemorrhagic septicaemia, 60 star tortoises (dehydration), 52 red-eared slider turtles (hepatitis), a lioness (infectious peritonitis), a sloth bear (dehydration), neelgai calf (tick fever) and a month-old tiger cub.

The BBP is situated adjacent to the Bannerghatta National Park and comprises enclosures, safaris and a rescue centre.

MUTE WITNESS: Sources say that the Rs. 10-crore master plan chalked out in 2006 has essentially been used to make the tourist experience better. — PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.

14 per cent

The mortality figure of 273 accounts for 14 per cent of the biological park’s total animal population of 1,929, which is seven times the internationally acceptable mortality rate of 2 per cent for a zoo. While some of these casualties could reflect the condition of animals when they were seized or rescued, the mortality figure is nevertheless high, says B.C. Chittiappa, assistant director, Veterinary Services, at the zoo.

He adds that the zoo is in dire need of wildlife vets and infrastructure as basic as a functional operation theatre. “I have one retired vet who works on contract. We need at least one qualified vet of a veterinary officer’s cadre on a permanent basis,” says Dr. Chittiappa.

The death toll was high in the previous quarter too (April to June) when 151 animals died, including three flying squirrels (enteritis and streptococci infection) and a leopard (pasteurellosis).

Many of the enclosures need to be upgraded. “The one for flying squirrels for instance is completely inappropriate. The animals are arboreal, essentially nocturnal and clearly need more space than they have.”

The hippopotamus enclosure, reminiscent of a giant washbasin, is overcrowded and needs to be improved, says Dr. Chittiappa. As for the endangered king cobras, their tiny enclosure gives them no room to reproduce.

According to sources, the Rs. 10-crore “master plan” chalked out for the zoo in 2006 has essentially been used to make the tourist experience better with a new entrance, car park, a road and landscaped environs. So, four years after the money was sanctioned from the Central Zoo Authority and the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), there has been no substantial improvement in conditions for the captive animals.

Milo Tago, BBP director, told The Hindu the park is now in the process of floating tenders for upgrading the enclosures.

Divya Gandhi – From THE HINDU

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