Careless caretakers: over dozen animals, birds died in 2016 at Islamabad zoo


  •  Ministers, bureaucrats request PMNH to ‘stuff’ animals for decoration
  • 17 animals, birds died in past one year at Marghzar Zoo


Over dozens of animals and birds worth millions of rupees have died in capital’s oldest MarghazarZoo in last one year due to the negligence of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).

Well-placed sources in the MCI revealed that the dead bodies, skins, skulls, bones and other precious parts of some animals and birds were allegedly sold out in the black market in the cover of their burial, Pakistan Today has learnt.

A zebra, hog deer, ostrich male, zebra foal, ostrich female, wolf, lion cub male, lion cub female, flamingo male, crane male, two common peafowl male, ring-necked pheasant female, and demoiselle crane have died in 2016. However, two Nilgai’s have died so far in 2017.

“We had many deer at the zoo and in green belt near Faisal Mosque numbering around 42, if someone paid 85-95 thousand rupees then the authority allowed him to take a pair of uncommon deer for any purpose they need,” said deputy director of Marghzar Zoo.

On a visit to the museum, this scribe had a chance to visit the storage room where dozens of precious hides were preserved. It came to the knowledge that hides of Zebra and other precious animals were misplaced and till to date, they haven’t been retrieved.

Bureaucrats, members of ruling party often pressurise the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) authorities to stuff animals for their personal collection. At times, we are offered two animals with directions to preserve both of them and return one to the party concerned after stuffing. The other is given as compensation,’ told an employee requesting anonymity.

Earlier, when contacted, director of Marghzar Zoo took the stance that all the animals and birds which died were handed over to Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) after postmortem from National Veterinary Laboratory (NVL).

Two days later, probably after a settlement with PMNH, when the concerned officer was contacted, he said some of them were handed over to PMNH and some were buried. When questioned where? He refused to comment.

Dr Khalid Mehmood, the curator at PMNH said that most of the animals were dead due to the carelessness of zoo staff. He said that we received only seven animals from Marghzar Zoo in one year.

PMNH Director ZSD Dr Muhammad Rafique said that most of the time we have received the dead bodies of animals from Marghzar Zoo along with the postmortem report but sometimes we didn’t receive any.

He claimed that there were incidents like people donated PMNH the bodies of animals and birds which were illegally hunted or suffered from diseases; therefore, we often denied receiving such bodies.

“Some ministers also wrote letters and request to stuff their animals. Stuffing is a process of three months. He said that we’ve bought and displayed world biggest whale shark and have preserved more than 1.4 million stuffed bodies,” he added.

Besides this, six crocodiles have also died during quarantine period at Marghzar Zoo after importing from Karachi.

Post-2005, there were around 100 animals, birds died at Marghzar Zoo.

Veterinary Doctor Bilal Khijli claimed that most of the animals died of natural death. He pointed out that the budget for maintaining the zoo at international standard was recommended; however, the federal government granted 7.5 million for this fiscal year.

He said that there is a dire need of rehabilitation of decades-old and dilapidated cages of animals. He said that there is at least 45 thousand rupees expense for maintenance of zoo on daily basis.

He said that there are 4-5 thousand visitors every week, 500-550 on a daily basis who paid 20 rupees per person for entry at the zoo.

“Media only highlights the deaths at the zoo; there were births of 18 mammals, including vervet monkey, zebra, blackbuck, chinkara, two nilgai, spotted deer, hog deer, zebra, barking deer and birds including peafowl, pheasant and parakeets at the zoo during 2016-17,” he concluded.

It is worthy to mention here that MarghazarZoo was opened in 1978, at present, is home to over 95 animals, 860 birds, and 15 reptiles. The zoo was neglected when it was under the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and since it was handed over to MCI.

“Kavaan, the lone elephant as his partner ‘Saheli’ died, lives in a shabby three-walled structure, keeps on inviting criticism from across the world,” said MCI official.

PMNH Assistant Curator Asif Khan said that the staff, mainly veterinary doctor is overburdened; and now as he has been given a charge of deputy director, so he might not be able to take care of every animal at the zoo.

When contacted, Mayor and Chairman CDA Sheikh Anser Aziz said that if PMNH stuffed animals for education purpose, it’s okay. “If any person, minister influenced PMNH to stuff their animal purely for decoration, it’s illegal,” adding that authority will investigate it and strict action would be taken against the culprits behind that inhumanity.

However, sources briefed that PML-N minister for CADD had one animal stuffed in his office at ministry block. “PML-N high-ups stuffed ‘tiger-skins’ for their homes,” the source said.

When contacted, Dr Muhammad Ali of NGO Animal Shelters said that this is an extreme negligence of the local government. “How can anyone illegally stuff animals other than for education purposes,” adding that when he visited Islamabad Marghzar Zoo, he found it in a very congested area, with dilapidated cages and untrained staff. He requested the federal government to investigate the matter.