The century old museum of Zoology department of Calcutta University situated at Ballygunge Science College has suffered an irreparable loss as the specimens collected from different countries were destroyed in the devastating fire that broke out on Monday afternoon.
Ena Roy Banerjee, professor of the department who looks after the museum said the loss was irreparable as the specimens could not be replaced as many of them were one of its kind in the whole world. Banerjee, while preparing the list of specimens said that the specimens were either gutted or badly damaged.
She said: “They were like our children and how could we forget them?” The Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University Sugata Marjit and other senior officials including the Registrar visited the laboratory and assured cooperation including financial assistance. It was decided that the heads of departments would keep one set of keys while the other set would be kept with the caretaker so that those trapped during an emergency could be taken out safely. The specimens that were destroyed included a very rare south Asian Dolphin, a juvenile Leopard Seal found in Antarctica, an Australian Platypus, a Pangolin and Marmoset found in South and Central America. Banerjee said most of the specimens were given to the department as a gift or they came during exchange programmes. The Zoology department was started a century ago and great natural scientists like JBS Halden and Patrick Gades had worked in the department and laboratory. Gades later wrote a biography of Jagadish Chandra Bose.
The fire in the laboratory has revealed the callousness to preserve the museum and the laboratory. There were a couple of fire extinguishers only and the electrical wirings are old. But no steps were taken to modernise them and on the contrary the University authorities allowed the department to buy modern equipment without upgrading the infrastructure.