The Delhi High Court has issued notices to the Centre, the Director of the National Zoological Park (NZP) in Delhi, the Central Zoo Authority and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization after an environmental activist moved court seeking a CBI probe into alleged foul play in the maintenance of the zoo, including illegal trafficking of animals and their parts.
The petition filed by Ajay Dubey, the founder of Bhopal-based environment action group ‘Prayatna’, prayed for a probe by the CBI or any other agency into the incidents of illegalities in the Delhi Zoo, which had been held as the model zoo for the country.
Dubey also prayed for directions to the Central Zoo Authority to suspend the present administration of the zoo and appoint interim administration during the pendency of his petition.
Dubey’s counsel Pallav Mongia along with Pankaj Singh and Sabyasachi Bhaduri told the court that the animals in the zoo were being administered medicines which have already reached their expiry date and the records of the animals were also not being maintained properly as the director of the zoo is submitting false reports to the Central Zoo Authority.
They alleged that the “authorities of the National Zoological Park (NZP) have tried to dispose a horn/ivory that was dubiously collected from the Rhinoceros Maheshwari on July 11, 201, which has been missing since then. The concerned authorities have no plausible explanation for the same and the entire episode reeks of a large syndicate of cross-border trafficking in precious animal parts”.
Animals given medicines after expiration date
Dubey highlighted that the animals at the NZP were given expired medicines.
He said anesthetic drug Ketamine is a listed drug under Schedule X as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 and is prone to misuse but the zoo authorities had not maintained proper records and some of the drugs were missing.
For another drug named Replanta, the petition said, the expiry date in the record showed as ‘Not mentioned’ even when the box of the medicine clearly states the expiry date as 3 years from manufacture.
“Even though the medicine expired in September 2010, the Veterinary Officer continued to issue the same to the animals till 2016. On 19.06.2016 when the same was being issued to a Sikka deer, the Zoo Ranger and the Animal Keeper noticed that the medicine was expired and did not give it to the animal but kept it separately and recorded the same in the Beat Register,” the petition added.
Improper annual inventory
The petition said the authorities of the NZP had repeatedly submitted factually incorrect information to the CZA in their statutory Annual Inventory Reports under Rule 11 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009.
Dubey cited the example of the inventory report for year 2015-16 which shows that “five Common Langurs were acquired and 2 died, whereas in the report submitted to the CZA by the Director of the NZP dated 02.12.2016 the total acquisitions for the same period is reported as 8 and deaths as 4…The Common Langur, being a Schedule II animal, cannot be disposed without the prior approval of the CZA. However, the CZA has not granted any such approval as reflected in the Inventory Report for the relevant period”.
He also stated that all locks of the beat were defective even then langurs were transferred from the beat where one jumped into the moat and died.
Similar is the case with the record of the number of hog deer that died in the zoo in 2015-16 and even the gender of the deer which died do not correspond in the report of two NZP officers.
The petition shared an incident of 2014 when a stump-tailed macaque was not visible in the enclosure but the zoo authorities were not bothered and no alarm was sounded as per the standard operating procedure. The animal was missing for one day and the next day, when the head keeper searched for the macaque, its body was found in the enclosure and no post-mortem was conducted to assess the cause of death.
Dubey said the state of negligence could be assessed from the fact that the grass in the enclosure was so overgrown that the animal’s body could not be seen for one full day.
He said he had made representations to various authorities concerned but no remedial action was taken.