ONLY last year, in the month after the reopening of the Taraporevala Aquarium in south Mumbai, several exotic fish died after being unable to adapt to the new conditions. Now, with one penguin of their flock of eight dead amid suspicions that the birds are unable to acclimatise in the space where they are under quarantine in the Byculla zoo, officials said there were no lessons that could have been learnt from the incident at the Taraporevala aquarium in 2015.
“There are no lessons to be learnt from the Taraporevala incident last year… those were exotic fishes in an aquarium and this is a zoo,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of the Byculla zoo. The use of ‘filtered’ water directly sourced from the Arabian sea had resulted in high salinity and pollution in the fish tanks.
“In that case, the fishes depended solely on water but here it is only for swimming and hunting for the penguins in their pond,” Tripathi added. With Byculla zoo set for an upgrade and introduction of more exotic species, Tripathi believes there is a difference between the aquarium’s revamp and the zoo’s.
Tripathi added that all procedures related to the penguins were being “matched” as per the manual provided by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums along with AZA Animal Welfare Committee. “We are referring to those guidelines and there has hardly been any deviation,” Tripathi said. The report states all the optimum requirements for the survival of a penguin and covers all aspects, including the permissible bacteria level that can be present in the water to the quality that needs to be maintained in the quarantine area.
“The quarantine facility for penguins should be a separate facility for accommodating newly acquired birds or birds that should be separated from the group for health-related reasons. It should provide separate air and water systems from the main exhibit,” the manual for the quarantine area reads. However, when Dory, the deceased one-and-year-old penguin, got sick, she was not treated separately.
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“… by separating her (Dory) we could have created stress. We took a decision not to separate them. The deceased penguin was probably carrying a bacteria, which aggravated and worsened its condition. We are looking for the reasons that could have aggravated her condition,” Tripathi said, adding that there were three doctors round-the-clock to look after the penguins since their arrival to India.
According to Tripathi, in her last few days, Dory was looking dull and sluggish but was still swimming in the quarantine area. Last year, the exotic fish that died at the Taraporevala aquarium were bought from Bangkok and Malaysia and were reportedly kept in quarantine of 24 TDS as opposed to optimal 1.8 TDS (total dissolved salts).