In yet another blow to the civic-run Byculla Zoo, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has written to the Central Zoo Authority to probe into allegations made by city-based NGO Plant and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) regarding cruelty towards animals by caretakers.
In a letter to the CZA, AWBI’s assistant secretary S Vinod Kumaar said the board had received a complaint from PAWS on November 1 stating “the animals at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan are treated in a cruel and inhumane manner”. The complaint was made on the basis of a surprise zoo inspection conducted by PAWS on October 29 last year, when team members allegedly found caretakers hitting and poking crocodiles with sticks, and visitors teasing animals by throwing stones with no caretakers around.
“Even when we inspected the zoo in 2006 and 2009, we observed incidents of cruelty on the emu and the himalayan black bear. Through regular visits to the zoo, we have noticed that the zoo’s caretakers are not qualified to look after the animals. They do not know their behaviour and treat them roughly,” said Sunish Subramanian, founder and secretary of the NGO.
The board, which comes under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has directed the CZA to investigate the matter and direct the authorities concerned to take appropriate action against the offenders as per law. The letter has also been sent to the district Collector of Mumbai, the regional deputy director of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau as well as the superintendent of police for information and necessary action.
Meanwhile, a report by the CZA team, which visited the zoo in December, has found faults in various areas of zoo management. The team had visited the zoo to evaluate it for extension of recognition as well as to investigate a complaint by state MP Sanjay Dina Patil about the pitiable living conditions of animals. The MP’s complaint was based on the same PAWS inspection report, which had also found that many enclosures did not have food or water, animals looked depressed with some being harassed by scavengers picking on their injuries and an unhygienic living environment.
“The zoo management is poor and since it is an old zoo, there are many problems that need to be addressed,” said B S Bonal, member secretary, CZA. “Improvements are required in some areas. In fact, we asked them to prepare a master plan for this very reason as many problems will be solved if the guidelines are followed. A committee has been set up to study the report and decide on improvements,” he said.