This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Zoo (National Zoological Park)
Attractions in the zoo
2017 November, animals in the zoo
Attractions in Delhi Zoo, November 2017
2019: CCTVs helped
CCTV cameras are in much use at Delhi’s National Zoological Park these days. They have helped the zoo authorities to finally carry out the census of animals ordered by Delhi high court in April, and will now be installed in enclosures to keep tabs on not only the animals, but also the staff and the visitors.
CCTV cameras were uniquely used for the first time to determine the number of zoo animals, particularly nocturnal and burrowing animals which the zoo authorities said could have been hard to track if normal procedures for counting were followed.
The high court had ordered completion of the census within two weeks, but the results were delayed all this while. “We wanted to carry out a comprehensive audit, and so the delay,” Renu Singh, director, Delhi zoo, told TOI. “We studied CCTV footage and determined the number of burrowing animals that had gone underground. CCTV cameras also helped us detect a fox birth that we had not seen earlier.”
According to officials, 13 CCTV cameras were used interchangeably at different enclosures for the census. They were also used to number the deer population at the zoo. “Since there is a large number of deer and they are in one large enclosure, we used CCTV cameras to arrive at their exact number,” said Singh.
The recorded footage also yielded information on the feeding patterns and the behaviour after lights went off of certain animals such as jackals and monitor lizards. This boost to information collection has inspired the zoo to install 256 CCTV cameras by the end of the financial year.
The Rs 5-crore project is aimed at keeping track of animals, zoo staff and to ensure visitors do not violate rules. “We will know more about our staff, their whereabouts, what visitors are doing and where a particular animal is located at any point of time. Instances of visitors throwing items in the enclosures, like in the past, can also be tracked,” explained Singh.
Delhi high court rapped the zoo for irregularities in animal data and irregularities in post-mortem reports and finances. On April 9, it directed the zoo to carry out an animal census and even granted police protection after the zoo officials pleaded that its own staff was obstructing the count. The court observed, “There is absolute lawlessness prevailing in the national zoo of the country… The records are being manipulated and tampered with, and the statutory body is not being allowed to perform its assigned duties. The death of animals is being suppressed.”
The court added that the lack of action by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change following the Central’s Zoo Authority’s 2016 reports had led to the deteriorating situation in Delhi zoo.
2019: 10 species lost
Letter to PM: Zoo has lost 10 species
‘Other Endangered Animals Also Under Threat’
The National Zoological Park has lost its entire population of 10 species in recent times, and visitors can no longer see the Indian gazelle (chinkara), water monitor lizard, soft-shelled turtle, ostrich, black-necked stork, adjutant stork, green munia, black-headed munia, red-breasted parakeet and the lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo.
This fact was pointed out in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Dr D N Singh, former member-secretary, Central Zoo Authority (CZA). In the letter, a copy of which is with TOI, Singh also pointed out that other endangered animals listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, including a lion-tailed macaque, wolf and giraffe, had died in Delhi zoo of unnatural reasons.
After conducting a census at the zoo recently, the Delhi high court-appointed committee, headed by the zoo director, had reported a very high rate of animal mortality at the zoo, nearly four times the acceptable 5% rate under World Association of Zoos and Aquariums guidelines.
Singh’s letter also alleged that details shared in Parliament recently were incorrect. On July 26, East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir had wondered during question hour whether Delhi zoo had “lost its sheen” with enclosures lying empty after the death of several animals. Minister of state for environment, forest and climate change Babul Supriyo had responded, “Only one enclosure of giraffe is lying empty since June 9, 2015… after the death of the last giraffe due to myocarditis and kidney failure.”
Singh claimed the zoo had violated the CZA-approved master layout plan, according to which only one species of animal is to be kept in any particular enclosure. He added that after the zoo’s last chinkara died on June 14, its enclosure had similarly become home to two barking deer.
Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, who has gone to Delhi high court on the irregularities in the zoo, blamed the Union ministry for the mismanagement at the facility. “It is likely that 24 more species will disappear from the zoo soon because the animals are kept in illegal isolation,” she said, adding the zoo should be replaced by a rescue and rehabilitation centre.
The latest census notes that the zoo has been left with only one gender of some species, like the tiger. The only female jungle cat has died as have the two female rhinoceros. Delhi high court had ordered an animal census on April 9, and had given the zoo authorities two weeks to complete it. But on May 15, zoo director Renu Singh had sought four more weeks to comply with the directions, and the court had to ask police to protect the census takers from the zoo staff.
Such discrepancies in the zoo had pointed out in a letter sent by then minister Maneka Gandhi to CZA in 2016. A subsequent probe had uncovered forged post-mortem data, underreporting of animal deaths and the illegal capturing of certain animals to replace the dead ones.
TOI texted some queries on the matter to the zoo director and the chief veterinarian, but they went unanswered.
57-year-old in Record Books/ 2019
Delhi zoo’s oldest chimpanzee, 57-year-old Rita, has now been recognised as the oldest chimpanzee in the country, according to the Limca Book of Records. Rita came from Amsterdam zoo as part of an exchange of demoiselle cranes in 1964. She was inducted in the record book on Thursday, with the certificate stating, “Rita, an inmate of Delhi zoo is India’s oldest chimpanzee and probably the oldest in Asia.”
Delhi 11 zoo director Renu Singh said the zoo had applied for the certification last year and the confirmation was received earlier this month. The Limca Book of Records carried out the basic record checks across zoological parks in the country before confirming. “Most chimpanzees don’t live beyond the age of 50 with their lifespan ranging from 40 to 50 years. Rita has lived well past that and continues to flourish here,” said Singh.
Rita became a star attraction in 2017 when zoo visitors celebrated her birthday, which included a cake-cutting ceremony. Cut-outs of Rita and a large display screen had been put outside her enclosure, showcasing her each move.
Rita was paired with a male chimpanzee Max at Delhi zoo. She was loaned to Chhatbir zoo in Punjab in 1985 but returned to the Delhi zoo again in 2006.
Deaths of animals
See graphic: Animal deaths in Delhi zoo, 2014-17, year-wise
Of the 325 deaths recorded at Delhi zoo in 2016-17, more than 100 cases were due to traumatic shock -that is, shock in captivity . Also, it was the first time in six years that over 300 animals had died in a single year.
A day after Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Lok Sabha about the high mortality, TOI did a reality check to find that unlike the previous year, rabies and bird flu weren't the biggest culprits this time. While 33 cases of rabies were reported, not a single death took place due to bird flu.
“Forty-six resident birds that died last year were sent for testing for H5N8 virus.However, all tests came out negative. We could not find out the actual cause of death as postmortem wasn't conducted at the zoo. At least five positive cases of bird flu were reported last year, but all these involved migratory birds,“ said a zoo official.
In fact, the total number of deaths recorded last year was greater than the combined figure of the three years prior to that. The zoo recorded 97 deaths in 2015-16; 56 in 2014-15; and 103 in 2013-14.
As many as 77 spotted deer deaths were recorded in 2016-17; 33 of these occurred due to rabies.
Another 59 blackbuck -a Schedule-I animal under the Widlife Protection Act, 1972 -died, several of them dying due to pneumonitis, an inflammation of lungs.
A total of 109 cases related to `traumatic' shock that, zoo officials said, might occur when the ani mal was stressed or faced with extreme weather conditions. “Animals, especially deer, often fight among themselves to show superiority. This sometimes causes shock,“ said a zoo official.
In addition, 23 deaths were reported due to senility, 32 because of enteritis, 21 due to pneumonitis and eight owing to tuberculosis.
The zoo also lost all four of its monitor lizards, which were `pulled' out during hibernation, leading to shock.An exotic African cape buffalo died due to tuberculosis.
Zoo authorities said they were taking precautions. “We are regularly cleaning the enclosures and using anti-viral spray for animals. We are using disinfectants for ponds and workers have been asked to use gloves,“ said Renu Singh, director, Delhi zoo.
Attractions in Delhi Zoo, November 2017
2016-19: mortality rate nearly 20%
The Delhi zoo has an exorbitant rate of animal mortality at nearly 20%—four times higher than the accepted mortality rate of 5% internationally.
This was pointed out in a report by a Delhi high courtappointed committee, which has conducted a census of the zoo. It shows that 245 deaths were recorded in 2018-19 of a total 1,243 animals and birds.
The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that of the 99 species of animals and birds in the zoo, 27 are represented by a single specimen. And of those that no longer exist include giraffe and zebra.
Activists say figures of deaths have been manipulated in the zoo, which is the only one in the country to be directly administered by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.
“Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2005 mentions all deaths have to be reported. Infant mortality is not being shown in spite of repeated directions of the Central Zoo Authority. According to news reports, two tiger cubs born in the National Zoological Park in August, 2018 died on 18th and 26th of that month. However, these two deaths have not been reflected in the inventory prepared by the committee. The two tigresses died in 2018, so that’s the end of tiger breeding in the zoo,” said animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, who is a petitioner.
She claimed the manipulation and suppression of deaths of severely endangered animals has been blatantly done. “The report shows that 27 animals of different species (see graphic) are being kept in solitary confinement, which is against the law. Absence of privacy and enrichment in enclosures has led to a miserably failed conservation breeding programme. Rampant teasing of animals and zero privacy in enclosures is also causing high stress related mortality,” Maulekhi said.
Earlier, Delhi high court had ordered that the census will be carried out under police protection after the zoo authorities had complained that their own staff were obstructing the census team.
The court had ordered the animal census on April 9 and had given the zoo authorities two weeks to complete it. However, during a hearing on May 15, the zoo director, who is the chairperson of the committee constituted by MoEF, sought four more weeks to comply with the directions.
“Order of April 9, 2019, has not been complied with. Census has not been carried out. We direct the SHO, Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, to provide the requisite police force as and when requested by the chairperson of the committee to ensure that the census is carried out,” the May 15 court order had stated.
The violations came to light in 2016 after a letter from Maneka Gandhi to the CZA led to a probe. This led to the discovery of forged postmortem data, including under-reporting of langur deaths and missing data for others. A later probe had found the zoo was illegally capturing animals such as monitor lizards, red and common sand boas, civets and tortoises to replace the dead ones. “The authorities have the audacity to lie in matters which are being monitored by the court. This is not just apathy for the animals but defiance of the law of the land,” the petitioner said.
Delhi zoo saw a record footfall of close to 34,500 visitors January 1, 2018 beating its previous record by over 2,000 people. Earlier, the highest footfall recorded on a single day was 32,006. Zoo officials said 34,352 visitors came to the zoo on January 1, 2018, despite foggy conditions and low mercury. In 2017, the zoo recorded a footfall of 31,414 visitors on Eid.
Monuments within the campus
The Times of India, August 11, 2015
Little is known about the tomb, historians say it was an early Mughal-era structure, one of the many that can be found in the area. It is not a listed monument, and decades of neglect have led its ornamentation and geometric patterns to wither away completely. The masonry of the dome is exposed, with creepers trailing all over it. Many stones on the edges seem to rest loosely, ready to fall on anyone standing underneath./// The tomb is close to a black bear enclosure on a raised ground near a waterbody .While zoo authorities have installed a signboard telling visitors to keep out. It has been done in a seemingly perfunctory manner. This sole board has been placed in a corner less frequented by people, and there are no railings or barriers which ideally should have been there considering it's a crumbling building.
GLASS WALLS, FUN FACTS AT NEW-LOOK ENCLOSURES AT ZOO
Delhi zoo threw open a revamped reptile house for visitors, which will showcase the different types of reptiles found across the country. Opened after almost six months, the entire area has been given a complete makeover, making it disabled-friendly.
Large glass walls and additional lighting have also been installed at the reptile house, with each enclosure having descriptive boards and fun facts about the species present inside. “The idea is to make the entire area more interactive. Each enclosure now has large glass walls, with informative boards so that people know more about the reptiles they are viewing, what they eat and where they are found,” said zoo director Renu Singh.
The access area to the reptile house, which is located behind the white-tiger enclosure, has also been made disabled-friendly. Zoo officials said the problem of suffocation inside the reptile house has been fixed by installing air-based turbines. “Earlier there were openings for sunlight, but the enclosures were quite airtight. Special vents have now been created with turbines installed on the top of the enclosure, which automatically balance the amount of air in the reptile house,” said an official.
Delhi zoo has already begun a drive to procure a number of reptiles for the house, which will include a few snake species that were lost recently. In addition to snakes, mountain lizards, water mountain lizards and different tortoise species will also be added.
At present, the reptile house has an Indian cobra, rat snakes, diadem snakes, water snakes, python, star tortoise and a red-eared tortoise. “We have started the process to acquire more reptiles. Snakes that died over the last few years will also be procured,” said zoo curator, Riyaz Khan.
To give visitors an interactive experience, Delhi zoo has planned a mini-desert safari, which will have a walking path with desert animals on either side. The path will pass through tunnels and a bridge as well, said an official.