Death of four cubs at Islamabad zoo: negligence or infanticide? | Pakistan Today

Death of four cubs at Islamabad zoo: negligence or infanticide?

  • Overdose of lactose turned out to be a slow poison
  • A total of 21 animals, birds die in 2016-2017

ISLAMABAD: Four cubs, at the Islamabad Zoo, that died earlier this month were fed high intakes of Welmingnch milk as an alternative to lioness milk that turned out to be a slow poison for the cubs, experts believe.

Marghzar Zoo Deputy Director Veterinary Dr Bilal Khijli claim that all of four cubs born to an African lioness died early July after lioness distanced herself from her cubs and stopped feeding them; alternate lioness milk [very costly to import] was not available in Pakistan, so authority was left with no other option but to feed them Welmingnch milk [as spelled by Dr Bilal Khijli], after consulting with experts. As a result, all of them died.

When contacted, Dr Ali Ayaz of NGO Animal Shelters said that powder milk cannot replace the milk of lioness; though, the said Welmingnch milk is artificial milk and it requires a specific process of diluting a minute quantity of powder with water.

In a case of failure to match the quantity or overfeeding, it can cause dire consequences. He said there must be some kind of negligence on part of zoo staff, resulting in the cubs’ death. He urged that the concerned authorities must probe into the incident to gather details and fix responsibility, as it is a major loss.

Most carnivorous are lactose intolerant. That’s why lactose should be less in the milk-replacer, he maintained.

He said that high intake of lactose can cause diarrhea leading to dehydration, which can cause death. Postmortem report also backed this thesis. It means that the cubs were either intentionally or negligently given an overdose which caused the deaths.

Moreover, the postmortem report of National Veterinary Laboratories (NVL) issued on Wednesday (yesterday) claimed that one male and two female cubs died due to mere ‘infanticide’; however, another male cub, 18 days, having 2.7kg weight died on 10th of July, due to infanticide, diarrhea, and dehydration.

The postmortem report of 18-day-old cub reads, “mother is not feeding milk to its cubs, who were separated from her after consultation with Dr. Masood ul Haq, a veterinary consultant; the cub is on hand-feeding; yellowish diarrhea; temperature 103 F; lethargic and dehydrated.”

Postmortem report suggested that body condition of all four cubs were ‘weak’.

Lion female cub of 8 days, having 2.0kg weight died on July 1. “Mother is not feeding the milk to its cub, abandon by the mother; low immunity, recumbent lethargies; temperature 88 F.”

Lion male cub of 7 days, having 2.4kg weight died on June 29; “mother is not feeding milk to its cub,” the report mentioned. Lion female cub of 7 days, died on 29th June.

On the other hand, many zoo officials believe that the cubs died because of alleged negligence on part of the zoo staff.

A few days before Eid, on June 22, Rani, the African lioness at Marghazar Zoo, had given birth to four cubs.

The zoo officials said that Rani and the cubs were living in a separate designated room, where their movement was captured through cameras.

Some zoo officials have alleged that negligence is a major factor in the death of zoo animals, with over a dozen animals dying in the last two years. Zoo staff has always termed the deaths natural.

Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) officials told Pakistan Today that all the cubs were handed over to them, as the PMNH preserved them.

Earlier, it was reported that the ruling PML-N and influential bureaucrats often pressurise the PMNH officials to stuff animals [lions, cubs] for their personal collection and decoration purposes.

“There are speculations that all of four cubs were killed [as per plan] and sent to PMNH for the similar cause,” PMNH official said.

It was previously highlighted by Pakistan Today that over dozens of animals and birds worth millions of rupees have died in capital’s oldest Marghazar Zoo 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 on the black market in the cover of their burial.

This year two Nilgai’s and four cubs have died so far.

Farid Sabri

The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be contacted at his email [email protected], and Twitter: @FaridSabri786