The National Zoological Park, popularly called the Delhi zoo, allegedly replaced five dead monitor lizards with new ones procured from “outside”, documents accessed by The Indian Express show. The Delhi zoo had recently expressed “shock” at the death of four monitor lizards which, zoo authorities claimed, had died on February 1 and 2 after being “disturbed” by the zoo ranger during “hibernation”. But documents show that the reptiles that died in February were “replacements” allegedly brought from “outside” for five monitor lizards that died between November 5, 2016 and January 2, 2017.
Sources told The Indian Express that in March, 2016, the Delhi zoo submitted to the Central Zoo Authority that they had eight monitor lizards. But according to its own inventory for 2016, the zoo only had five monitor lizards, sources claimed, adding that even those five had died before January 2, 2017.
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The Indian Express has learnt that the zoo ranger blamed by the Delhi zoo tried to highlight this in a letter to senior officials, alleging that on January 28, when he went to inspect beat number 7 — the reptile enclosure in the zoo — it came to his notice that there were five lizards there. This came as a surprise to the ranger, who claimed in his letter to senior officials that “that there were no monitor lizards in the previous records”.
“After inquiry, the keeper and head keeper told me that three monitor lizards have come from outside and the remaining two have been captured from beat numbers 14 and 6 of the zoo as per orders given to them by the animal in-charge,” the ranger wrote to a senior official. The ranger also alleged that “they (the keeper and head keeper) were instructed” to “hide the transfer of monitor lizards”.
Typically, the Delhi zoo is supposed to inform the Central Zoo Authority about the death of any animal, as well as any new animal being brought in.
The zoo ranger is responsible for inspecting and maintaining records of the animal enclosure. He reports to the Joint Director, who belongs to Indian Forest Services cadre. Documents related to ‘ration distribution’ in beat number 7, accessed by The Indian Express, show that the five monitor lizards, mentioned in the zoo inventory for 2016, died between November 5, 2016 and January 2, 2017. The ration distribution shows how many eggs are sent each day for consumption.
Documents show that on April 1, 2016, there were five monitor lizards, which were being fed one egg each; on November 5 four were left; on December 12 three were left; on December 15 two were left; and by December 17 only one remained.
Documents also show that on January 2 this year, ration distribution in the beat showed that there were no monitor lizards left. Further, documents from the ‘store section’ also reveal that on January 3, no eggs were sent for feeding to beat number 7, indicating that no monitor lizards were left.
Zoo curator Riaz Khan said he “didn’t want to comment on the allegations”. “The monitor lizards were disturbed on January 28. Two died the same day and two died on February 1 and 2. Prima facie cause of death was due to shock; after there was temperature fluctuation. A showcause notice has been issued to the zoo ranger asking why action should not be taken against him,” Khan said.