41 animals died due to infighting since 2011

An unflattering spotlight was shone on the acute space crunch in the city zoo on Monday when the Minister in charge of zoos P. K. Jayalakshmi informed the Assembly that 41 animals had died due to infighting there since 2011.

Thirty of the animals that died due to infighting were deer; spotted deer, sambhar and hog deer. Infighting also cost the zoo pea fowls, a sloth bear, a painted stork, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, a peacock, a yellow golden pheasant and a Livingston Turaco.

The zoo lost 117 animals of different species over the last three years due to various reasons including infighting and medical conditions, such as hemorrhagic enteritis, cardiac failure and pneumonia.

Attacks by predators have also been cited as a cause for couple of exotic bird deaths. This includes the death of two birds last December – the Lady Amherst pheasant and the green-ring necked pheasant – both killed by mongooses.

However, it is the drastic space crunch for the deer that has had zoo officials on tenterhooks for so many years now. The zoo now has 140 Sambhar deer and 130 spotted deer. Given its size the zoo can only play host to a maximum of 20 deer per species.

In a last-ditch attempt to hold down its deer numbers the zoo has, over the last five months, sterilised 34 male spotted deer and shifted 31 of them to a separate enclosure. Already the zoo has separated the male and female Sambhar and has shifted out the 47 males to another enclosure. The sterilised males have been fitted with a non-electronic ear tag to help zoo officials identify them.

“At any given point of time a good percentage of the female deer are pregnant. In the past the new born male deer were kept in the same enclosure with the rest of the herd. When they came of age they would mate and the deer population kept on increasing,” the zoo vet Jacob Alexander told The Hindu on Monday.

Now, the zoo plans to sterilise—at the appropriate time—the males that would soon be born. This move reportedly has the approval of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

This, according to Dr. Alexander, would also enable the zoo to bring over 15 swamp deer from Lucknow. “An understanding has been reached between the two zoos on this matter. In exchange for the deer we plan to given them bonnet macaques and jungle cats. The CZA has to give its nod for this,” he added.