Mumbai: In a rather troublesome news for the animal lovers, 77 animals, birds and reptiles died at the city’s only zoo at Byculla over the past year. The animal inventory data from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) revealed that the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyaan, commonly known as Rani Baug, lost the highest number of animals over the past six years. The zoo, which is very famous in Mumbai gets around 4,000 visitors every day, now has only 388 animals, birds and reptiles. There are 54 species under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, 182 Schedule-II and IV species and 152 exotic species.
The mortality rate at the Byculla Zoo, which was setup in 1862, making it the oldest in Maharashtra, has been steadily increasing since 2011. The zoo witnessed 70 animal deaths in 2015-16; 72 deaths in 2014-15; 40 deaths in 2013-14; 39 in 2012-13 and 34 in 2011-12, reported Hindustan Times. In a rather worrisome trend, 151 animals and birds, including alligators, a lioness, some deer and a hippopotamus, died in 2010-11 – the most in a year in the past decade.
Zoo officials said majority of the deaths were owing to old-age. “We observed a similar trend this year as compared to what had happened in 2010-11, when mortality rate was high. Apart from deaths owing to old age for mammals, bird species died of natural causes,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, Byculla zoo director to Hindustan Times. “Proper medical treatment was provided, with each and every case getting individual attention.”
According to the animal activists the situation has been quite dire at the zoo and have strongly refuted the claims made by zoo officials and alleged that the condition of the zoo is deplorable and animals had suffered owing to a host of environmental problems during the revamp. In 2012, a Rs 150-crore revamp plan for the zoo was proposed by a foreign agency and a consultant was appointed after the layout plan was approved by the CZA and host of plans were put in place for the beautification of the zoo.
“The constant movement of trucks within the zoo premises led to both air and noise pollution. Also, improper management of cages and insufficient treatment of water bodies (home to hippopotamus, crocodiles, etc) has led to the deaths,” said Sunish Subramaniam Kunju, secretary, Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS-Mumbai), a NGO that has been filing regular complaints against the zoo since 2005. “We will be writing to the state forest department to take up the matter,” he told the paper.
Maharashtra forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that the mortality rate is worrisome. “The forest department, under the aegis of the state, is not responsible for matters related to the Byculla zoo as it is under the purview of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). But we will be highlighting the matter to the central government to look into the issue,” he said.