Exotic animals rescued from smugglers die in Kolkata zoo

Between June and October this year, officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized more than 150 exotic birds and other species being smuggled into the country. The interceptions were a major success not only because the seizures included birds like Pygmy falcons, Eclectus parrot, Javan sparrows and Kookaburras, and mammals like lemurs, hillock gibbons and palm civets but also because the smugglers were using the borders with Bangladesh and Mynamar to push the animals into India, primarily to be traded in the pet market.

However, much to the surprise of the agency, 54 of these birds and mammals have died at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata. The mortality report was signed by three veterinarians and submitted to the zoo authorities, who, in turn, informed the DRI and other agencies.

Among the birds which died, seven are Pygmy falcons, a small raptor found in eastern and southern Africa; three Electus parrot, a bird native to the Solomon Islands; eight Kookaburra, a terrestrial tree kingfisher native to Australia and New Guinea; six Rosellas, colourful parrots from Australia; and several grass parakeets. A palm civet, which was rescued from smugglers on May, 2018, also died. Some of these species fetch thousands of dollars in the international pet market.

Interestingly, “infighting injury” has been cited as a reason for the deaths of eight birds in the mortality report. Other reasons include transport stress and shock, neurogenic shock enteritis and multiple organ failure.

Asish Kumar Samanta, director of the Alipore Zoological Gardens, said, “There are provisions laid down by the Central Zoo Authority under which we have to accept the animals which are seized. We have taken every possible care of the animals but unfortunately some of them have died for various reasons.”

The deaths have raised questions on whether the zoo has adequate infrastructure and resources to handle these exotic species. The director, however, said that the mortality was high as the seized animals were transported under conditions which put extreme stress on them.

Officials of the DRI Kolkata Zonal Unit have written to the Alipore Zoological Gardens and the State Wildlife Board to review the mechanism of keeping such birds and the pressing need for taking utmost care of the remaining species.

Meanwhile, activists have raised questions about the efficacy of such seizures and interceptions, if the birds were dying in the custody of the government itself.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:16:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/exotic-animals-rescued-from-smugglers-die-in-kolkata-zoo/article25644203.ece

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