A three-member committee constituted by the government to probe into the recent deaths in the zoo here has confirmed them as lone cases in the respective species.
Addressing the media here on Friday, committee chairman Mathew C. John said that certain management and health-related recommendations had been made for the better functioning of the zoo.
“The average mortality rate has been recorded at 4.9% for the period from April to June, which is not of concern in the present context. The detailed report of the inspection and recommendations will be sent at the earliest to the authorities concerned,” he said.
The mortality rate as per the norms of the Zoo Authority of India (ZAI) stands at 10% annually.
Asked about the space constraints in the zoo, Suresh Kumar, a member of the committee, said that space management and enclosure-enrichment methods topped the list of recommendations made by the committee.
“The ZAI recommends different floor space requirements for different animals depending on their size and behaviour. Currently, space utilisation is a major problem for the zoo,” he said.
According to him, over-population was a concern, especially among deer species which were prolific breeders. This could lead to a favourable environment for pathogens, increasing the chances of animals getting vulnerable to infections. He said the committee had recommended reduction of population pressure. Now 117 sambar deer and 96 spotted deer were housed in the zoo, whereas the permitted limit was 20-40 per species.
Lack of a well-developed quarantine centre was another matter of concern. As a safety measure, all the animals must be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days and should under go medical evaluation before they were introduced into the zoo. This was to ensure that they were healthy and they would not cause diseases to the other inhabitants.
According to zoo director Udaya Varman, a proposal had been submitted to the government for building a quarantine centre adjacent to the zoo hospital.
Asked about the death of a species of birds due to the presence of high aflatoxin levels in their food, he said the food channel might have been contaminated, and denied any wilful negligence.
The expert committee consisted of Dr. Mathew C. John, former Professor and Head, Department of Wildlife Science, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai; Dr. Suresh Kumar, Assistant Director,Mysore Zoo; and Dr. A. Manimozhi, Zoo Biologist, Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai. The committee was constituted by the government when doubts were raised about the impartiality of the group of experts previously formed by the director of the zoo to probe the cases. Twenty-three death cases, including mammals, reptiles and birds, have been confirmed so far.