In a tragic incident, one of the eight Humboldt penguins, imported to Mumbai’s Byculla zoo amid intense protests, no more than three months ago, has passed away after a week long illness.
Illness and death
According to a Times of India report, one of the female penguins, named Dory, fell ill on October 18th, exhibiting dull behaviour and passing unhealthy, green stool. The bird was immediately attended to by the veterinarian in charge of their welfare, but to no avail.
Over the next few days, several veterinarians and specialists tried to treat the bird, and several tests were run, but nothing concrete could be observed. The bird finally succumbed to her illness on October 23rd.
A post mortem report is awaited to correctly ascertain cause of death. However, previous tests had revealed the presence of ‘Gram –ve bacteria’, which could be indicative of intestinal infection.
The 8 Humboldt penguins were imported by the Shiv-Sena led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in July, even as several animal rights groups opposed the move.
The penguins, five females and three males (including two female baby penguins) were brought in from Seoul, South Korea, to the Byculla Zoo in an ambitious, Rs 2 crore modernization project. Money was also set aside for their subsequent upkeep in the zoo.
The birds, native to the cold environs of Chile and Peru, were being kept in quarantine for three months in a 1700 sq ft space. The quarantine period was meant to acclimatize the birds to their current environment (they were being kept at temperatures of 10-20 degrees Celsius) before they went on display in mid-November.
Animal rights activists, environmentalists and wildlife experts had raised severe objections to the move, claiming it to be ‘wasteful and unnecessary’, an earlier PTI report quotes. Many claimed that the import was only meant to bolster the popularity of Shiv Sena before the 2017 civic body elections in Mumbai. (The plan to import the penguins to Mumbai, a first in India was announced during the 2012 BMC elections)
Deaths in Byculla
Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Zoo, popularly called Byculla Zoo or Rani Baug, has a previous history of animal deaths within zoo premises, with almost 160 animals dying within the zoo from 2010-2011 of natural and unnatural causes. The zoo has a reputation for being one of the worst in India, with the highest mortality rate among animals in all of India’s zoos.
Animal activists are demanding a police probe into the death of the penguin.
Citing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, a complaint has been filed with Mumbai police against Byculla zoo since the possibility of intestinal infection or liver failure points to the possibility of zoo negligence, Sunish Subramaniam Kunju, secretary of PAWS-Mumbai, a dedicated animal welfare organisation, told Hindustan Times.
If the zoo is found responsible for the death, activists demand that the zoo’s licence be cancelled. Kunju said they had also written to Central Zoo Authority about the incident.
“Even before going in for public display, one penguin has not survived. The food being provided to the penguins is probably not appropriate, which might have led to her death because the liver and intestines are affected only because of food.” activist Anand Siva said.
“This city (Mumbai) has been globally shamed”, he added.
Siva had been active in voicing his objections against the import at the the time of the birds’ arrival. He, along with other activists, are now demanding the remaining penguins be sent back to Coex Aquarium in Seoul, from where they had been imported.
Similar emotions were echoed by people on social media:
Humboldt penguin dies at Byculla zoo. Hair brained idea of the thackerays. Why not focus on fixing roads & low cost housing instead ?— gayatrishah (@gayatrishah) October 24, 2016
A petition called ‘Release penguins kept at inadequate zoo to a suitable sanctuary’ has also been doing the rounds of social media since the bird’s death, and has already been signed by 819 people.
However, according to reports, the Byculla zoo is already considering getting a replacement penguin from Korea, if the post mortem confirms the penguin had been ill before it came to India.
Feature Image Source: Twitter