Hyderabad: Zoo mates falling prey to pollution

HYDERABAD: It was in the run-up to the Bakrid festival when the city zoo lost six black bucks last November within five days. The veterinary doctors at the zoo were surprised that the animals had died due to foot and mouth disease, which is caused by a virus that had been eradicated from Andhra Pradesh many years ago. And that’s when they realised how the virus had gained entry into the zoo: illegal slaughter houses that had mushroomed around the zoo unchecked had brought cattle and sheep from neighbouring states for the festival. Officials said the epidemic was contained and thus other animals saved.

Nevertheless, of the 24 animal deaths at the Nehru Zoological Park in the last one year, 18 have died in the last three months alone. Two animals, a fox and a mouse deer, died last week. But these deaths were not due to the virus. The fox was found dead in his burrow with maggot wounds and the mouse deer died due to a rare urine retention illness.

Clearly, there are more factors leading to deaths in the zoo than just the deadly virus. When founded in 1965, the 300-acre zoo was located on the city outskirts and its animals lived in mint fresh environs. If slaughter houses around it are making unwanted donations of the foot and mouth disease virus that travels into zoo at the speed of 60 km/hour, the vehicles moving inside the zoo are ensuring a rise in pollution levels as well. In addition, many animals are reaching their longevity and their deaths are natural. In some cases, however, the animals are lonely, having been couriered from other zoos to Hyderabad, alone. And there is a crunch in the number of animal keepers, with just about 57 animal keepers for the 1,390 animals living in the zoo.

But to start with, it is pollution that is the zoo’s biggest problem. If the road outside it has become busier, dirtier than ever, with it now leading to the Shamshabad airport, the number of vehicles moving inside the zoo have also shot up, despite the entry for vehicles priced at Rs 500. Zoo authorities say that 650 vehicles enter the zoo on ‘peak days’ such as holidays and weekends. On regular days, around 300 vehicles move around the zoo premises.

“The noise pollution because of vehicles is definitely having an impact on the animals who are not used to this kind of atmosphere. Especially primates and herbivores are very sensitive,” said Farida Tampal, state director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Pollution, both noise and air, may not kill animals but lowers their resistance, say experts. Tampal says that a suggestion was made to the zoo to operate more battery operated vehicles and restrict the entry of vehicles further. Given that the zoo earns an annual revenue of Rs 5 crore from its visitors, the suggestion to restrict entry of vehicles could be difficult to accept. After all, the zoo spends a lot too, Rs 11 lakh alone on the diet of the animals every month.

“I would not say that the zoo officials are negligent. But the zoo was once in an isolated place and now the traffic has compounded,” said Vasanti Wadi, secretary, People for Animals. Wadi goes on to point out another crucial issue— loneliness— that is casting a shadow on the animal’s longevity. “There are a few animals living alone. Every animal requires company,” she said, questioning why these animals were brought alone from other zoos.

Zoo officials say that acquiring animals for the zoo is a big problem, cumbersome too. “We got a giraffe from Delhi but a single one. What is the fate (of the animal),” wonders Dr M Navin Kumar, consultant with the Hyderabad zoo and also its former deputy director. The enclosures are such that two different kind of animals cannot be accommodated in one. Dr Kumar, who is also on the evaluation team of the Central Zoo Authority, says that zoos should always acquire an animal with its compatible breeding pair, which does not always happen.

Objectively speaking, the number of deaths even in the financial year 2008-09 were also 20 and this year the number has shot only by four. But that, say experts, is not the point. The fact that deaths have been clustered in a quarter is reason for concern. “There is a need for more animal keepers as well. We had 120 animal keepers in the 1980s but now we don’t even have half that number for 150 animal enclosures,” said an animal keeper at the zoo.

Experts say that the zoo’s mortality rate is the same as that of other zoological parks but admit its time its surrounding environment was cleaned to make the zoo livable for its animals.

From TOI

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Mysore zoo welcomes new guest

MYSORE: A female giraffe calf was born in Mysore zoo on Saturday. She was born to five-year-old Khushi and her male companion Krishnaraja.

Khushi was brought to Mysore Zoo from Lucknow in 2005 while male giraffe Krishnaraja was born in Mysore zoo in 1996. Presently, the zoo is housing three male giraffes and a female giraffe, apart from the newly born calf. The mother and the new calf will be put up for public display after 15 days.

From TOI

Chennai: Zoo to move elephants out

CHENNAI: The Zoological Park at Vandalur on the outskirts of Chennai is set to shift the four elephants in its collection following a ban imposed by the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZAI) on elephants being part of zoo collections.

And zoo officials seem not too unhappy about the move, for some of the elephants have in the past shown violent tendencies and their upkeep is expensive.

The CZAI directive dated November 7, 2009 sent to the Chief Wildlife Wardens of all States requires the zoo to immediately shift the animals to camps, to facilities available with the Forest Department at National Parks or to Tiger Reserves.

The communication said it was brought to the notice of the CZAI time and again that being kept in zoos caused trauma to elephants.

“It is a mega-herbivore which is free-ranging, cruising over long distances. Very few zoos in the country have adequate space to permit free movement of elephants, as a result of which they were kept chained for long hours, causing stress to them,” the communication added.

These captive elephants were not breeding and posed a serious threat to visitors when they were in ‘masth’ (mating period).

The programme to transport the animals need to be drawn up in consultation with the Chief Wildlife Warden.

Vandalur zoo officials said the zoo had two sub-adults and a calf.

The zoo also has a cow elephant, which is used for joy rides.

From THE HINDU

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

WWF Travel-Belize for Families

December 26, 2009 – January 3, 2010
Prices are per person, based on double occupancy: $5,260 adult; $4,995 ages 12 -17; $4,650 ages 11 and under. Single supplement is $1,500.

Trip Overview

Belize is a real-life wonderland that your family can experience first hand during a winter holiday outing that’s educational, relaxing and exciting all at the same time. A Central American gem tucked between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is home to a barrier reef that, at 185 miles, is the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

Belize for Families

Belize for Families

Trip Itinerary

Saturday, December 26, 2009
Upon arrival in Belize City, staff will meet your family at the airport and take you into the Maya Mountains to our beautiful and tranquil hotel. After settling in, meet your fellow travelers and guides at a welcome dinner. (D)

Sunday, December 27
After breakfast, explore one of the most wonderful river caves in Belize. Via sturdy canoes and with head lamps and spotlights to show us the way, paddle along the cave system, seeing stalagmites, stalactites and Maya pottery remnants. Later, travel to the bustling Belizean town of San Ignacio, where children participating in the pen pal program can meet their new friends. Visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project and the Green Hills Butterfly Farm. (B,L,D)

Monday, December 28
Today includes a visit to the Belize Zoo. The zoo is an educational center that teaches visitors about Belize’s native birds, reptiles and mammals. Founded in 1983, it also houses orphaned animals and those being rehabilitated. After exploring the zoo, go to the interestingly named Baboon Sanctuary. There are no baboons in Belize, of course, but the nickname “baboon” is what locals call the captivating black howler monkey. Hike along the sanctuary’s trails and keep an eye out for the mammals high in the trees. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, December 29
Depart early for Guatemala, spending the day at the ancient city of Tikal. This huge, yet only half-excavated archaeological site and nature reserve was one of the major population centers of the Maya world and is thought to be the largest of all ancient Maya cities. The reserve is home to coatimundis, spider monkeys and many bird species. Learn about the daily life of the Maya people during guided walks to the top of the temples and look for wildlife during easy treks through the surrounding rain forest. Return to our Belizean lodge in the late afternoon. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, December 30
Travel along one of the country’s main roads, called the Hummingbird Highway, to the coast of Belize, stopping en route to go tubing through an underground river. Look for intricate limestone formations and a crystal “cathedral” as you learn how the Maya used this area as a spiritual center. And listen for the sounds of waterfalls you cannot see. Continue to the coast and get ready for your ocean reef adventure tomorrow! (B,L,D)

Thursday, December 31
Hop in the water to snorkel along the Southern Barrier Reef, one of the most spectacular reefs in the world and a WWF priority place for protection. The 185-mile-long reef—the world’s second largest (after the Great Barrier Reef of For more information or to register for this Australia)—has more than 250 species of tropical fish, plus eagle rays, moray eels, dolphins, sea turtles, barracudas and other marine life. Later, enjoy a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party—sure to be a wonderful way to ring in the new year! (Note: Scuba diving will be available to those certified; an extra fee would apply.) (B,L,D)

Friday, January 1, 2010
Explore the delightfully named Monkey River, starting at Monkey River Town at the mouth of the lush, tropical river. Motor slowly upstream, then do a gentle float downstream, looking for howler monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles and such birds as euphonias, hawks, kingfishers and trogons. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Later, return to the resort by way of a maze of mangroves and lagoons. (B,L,D)

Saturday, January 2
Enjoy the day at leisure with your family, going snorkeling, relaxing on the beach or spending time at the resort. Opt to explore a nearby village to watch Garifuna drummers rhythmically play their handmade instruments. Meet up with the group later for a farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Sunday, January 3
Take a short morning flight to Belize City, where you will connect to flights back to the United States. (B)

For More Information