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Blackbucks’ deaths dark spot on zoos

Thirty-one blackbucks, members of a severely endangered species, have been reported killed by wild dogs in Kanpur Zoo on Sunday. The total number of blackbucks were 38 in the zoo. So only seven survived after the attack. This incident comes a month after 16 blackbucks were found dead in Kota Zoo thanks to contaminated fodder. Only 5 blackbucks survived. Of the 16 dead, 5 were pregnant. In both cases, there has clearly been gross violation of the basic responsibilities that zoos in this country are entrusted with. One can understand natural calamities or unexplained diseases or epidemics which often result in deaths of animals in enclosures. But to be callous enough to have prized and endangered specimens of animals to slaughtered by wild dogs or feeding them contaminated food is unacceptable. One fails to understand what kind of security lapse could lead to wild dogs finding their way into enclosed and heavily guarded zoos and what kind of lapse in administration allows contaminated food to be fed to animals who are under the care of that very administration. One would want to know what kind of people are in charge of such zoos and who employs and appoints them. But they are not stray incidents of calamity. Zoos in this country have shown shocking lack of accountability when it comes to the care and administration. It goes to show the unbelievable callousness and impunity with which zoos operate and unless they are heavily penalised and severely punished, the situation is unlikely to improve.
 
Not only must the zoo authorities locally and the Central Zoo Authority of India investigate thoroughly into the matter and bring to book the culprits but also must ensure that such things never happen again. In the Kanpur case, the director and the forester has been suspended but that is just the beginning. Much more needs to be done to ensure the well-being of animals inside zoological enclosures. There are few who would argue that in a country where people die like rats, caring for animals is a luxury. But they must be reminded that these are not linked. Care for the natural habitat and for the welfare of the flora and fauna are as much a necessary condition of well-being as is the creation of a habitable condition for humanity. These incidents should serve as a wake-up call to bring in wider technological, administrative and financial reforms to Indian zoos whereby the zoos work hard to be the custodians of the animals life inside and not kill them with rotten foods or end up serving them to wild animals.
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