Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Tranquillisers prove deadly to zoo animals

HYDERABAD: In the past five months, 28 wild or zoo animals have died while being handled by staff of three zoos in the state - Tirupati, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad. Last year, the number of deaths was 68. These deaths include zoo animals as well as those that had to be captured after they strayed into human habitations. One of the main reasons for these deaths? Many zoo keepers and staff aren't trained well enough to know the right dosage when they tranquilise the animals.

Of the 68 fatalities that occurred last year, 39 were due to botched tranquilisation. These included 12 tigers, 10 lions, 3 elephants and 5 bears that were being taken for a health check-up within the zoo, said the director of AP zoos, P Mallikarjun Rao. "It is true that officials sometimes inject inaccurate doses of the anaesthetic or dart them at the wrong spots."

Animals have to be tranquilised because they get nervous during transportation. The more ferocious animals are tranquillised to calm them down.

Multiple organ failure due to senility is another major cause of zoo deaths. Out of the 68 fatalities last year, 29 were doe to senility, old age, cage shock and disease.

To shore up the handling skills of zoo staff, Nehru Zoo in Hyderabad organised a training programme for its staff officials. 

They were trained in handling of tranquiliser guns and guaging the correct dosage required as per the weight of the animal, said AP chief wildlife warden Hitesh Malhotra. 

Dr M A Hakeem, the vet at the Nehru Zoo admitted that keepers are not well-educated and possess little knowledge of the science of handling animals. "Some of the zoo-keepers are just class VII pass. There is also a need for well-trained zoo beat officers," he said.

Zoo director Mallikarjuna Rao admits there is a pressing need to reduce the mortality rates in the state's zoos. Accordingly, veterinary hospitals with in-patient wards and expert vets are planned to be set up in zoos.
The three zoos in the state are home to around 4,100 species. To cater to this animal population and maintain hygienic conditions, zoos need sufficient, trained and educated animal-keepers, gardeners and other officials, he said.

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