Four lion cubs die in first 4 days at Karachi
KARACHI: The post-mortem report of the three lion cubs who died mysteriously within four days of their arrival at the Karachi Zoological Garden is expected within a week. The fate of the fourth cub, whose disappearance led to the discovery of the three deaths, is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s district officer, Mansoor Qazi, has been suspended for negligence towards the lions and Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani appointed Special Secretary Shazia Rizvi to head an inquiry into the matter.
The bodies have been put on ice, with a special generator in place in case of load-shedding. Their organs are to go to the Dow University of Health Sciences. The investigation team began its probe under the supervision of Revenue EDO Ghanwar Leghari on Saturday evening.
“The conditions that the babies were kept in were not at all hygienic and a team of experts are looking into it,” Leghari told The Express Tribune. “Everything will be clear after the post-mortem.”
The zoo is trying to pass the missing cub and the deaths of its siblings off on some form of ‘survival of the fittest’, claiming that the cubs’ mother, Sara, had tried to eat them. “The fourth missing cub is something we have to look into after the autopsy as our experts claim that the mother is captive and would not eat its own breed.”
Sindh Chief Chemical Examiner Dr Fazal Elahi Memon and the wildlife and animal husbandry team is examining the bodies.
On the other hand, the lions’ owner, Irfan Ahmed, expressed his reservations about the investigation to The Express Tribune. “The zoo has no proper preservation mechanism and by the time the post-mortem is conducted, all evidence will be gone,” he said. “It has to be done within 24 hours.”
“Sara delivered the cubs after 110 days, which is normal,” said Ahmed. “There is no possibility that an animal bred in captivity ate its own brood. The zoo administration is just a custodian, not the owners. They should have told us if they didn’t have the facilities.”
As for the missing cub, Ahmed raised another issue which must be taken into account when dealing with expensive animals like lions. He suspects the whole incident was a robbery bid gone wrong. “Zoo animal theft is a common thing these days. This investigation has to look into that side of the story as well because one lion cub is worth around half a million rupees.”
According to an animal specialist, the post-mortem will only reveal what the cubs ate before they died and whether they were suffocated to death. He ruled out the possibility of theft because the babies were not yet weaned off their mother’s milk.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.
The mother of the cubs, presumably with the father, at the zoological garden on Friday. PHOTO: JALAL QURESHI/EXPRESS
A witness claims that the cause of their death was the rainwater which seeped into their cage on Thursday but was not drained immediately. Zoo district officer Mansoor Qazi told The Express Tribune, however, that these allegations were false and the cubs were being looked after by a good doctor.
“Our team went around on a routine check-up and found one of the cubs was missing, when they went took look for him they found out that they were all dead,” he said.
A Tanzania-based Pakistani company, Osaka Traders, claims that in 2010 they had exchanged the lions, Sara and Albert, for zebras. The company used to pay Rs8,000 for the upkeep of the lions on a daily basis.
The jungle royalty and their pride were being looked after by Fawad Raja who told The Express Tribune that the cubs died because of the administration’s negligence. Trading company owner Irfan Ahmed claimed that he was the legal owner of the lions and was unaware that Sara had given birth to four cubs.
“The zoo administration did not tell me about the cubs and when I got in touch with them they told me that the lioness had tried to eat the cubs and killed them,” he said. “We received a call soon after that a cub had been found dead outside the cage and the administration was not present when we got there.” He added that the lions were completely harmless and would not hurt a chicken. “Soon after the birth of the cubs, the zoo district officer had banned the company’s personnel from feeding the cubs which was rather odd as we have been paying for the lions food and medical treatments,” he said.
Discussing the animals’ health, Ahmed added that he had been filming the cubs secretly. “The cubs had been placed in an open space where they were exposed to rain and probably died because of pneumonia,” he said. “Qazi could have asked for a medical consultant but he did not do so.” Ahmed added that Qazi had refused to cooperate with him and planed to sue him for Rs50 million.
He demanded that the government remove Qazi from his post immediately and added that he would take the zoo authorities to court. At the moment, Ahmed’s hands are tied as his trading company is currently embroiled in a court case regarding the confiscation of four lions at the airport in 2010.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the district officer had been appointed as a zoologist at the zoo 21 years ago.
EDO Ghanor Leghari claimed that she learnt about the birth and death of the cubs through the press and had not been informed by the zoo administration. She has asked Qazi to issue an explanation and has written an inquiry letter to DCO Muhammad Hussein Syed to look into the matter. The DCO told The Express Tribune that he was not so far aware of the incident.
A three-member committee led by Leghari has been asked to file a report in 15 days. The report will also look into how many animals had died at the zoo and Safari Park and why.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.
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