A city-based NGO has written to the Central Zoo Authority and the municipal commissioner alleging irregularities in the import of penguins by the civic body and has demanded an inquiry into it.
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The Watchdog Foundation, an NGO, questioned on Saturday the civic body’s move of roping in the Gaotrade Farming Co. Ltd in bringing the penguins to the city.
“The Goatrade has never transported any type of penguins, including Humboldt penguins, since 1993 to its world-wide clients. Then, how can it be said that the company has the relevant expertise to handle such animal transfer,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee of foundation.
Pimenta further said it seems another entity was involved in the process of importing it as the customs’ records show the mention of ‘Udyan’ in its invoice. He further questioned whether the civic body’s contract with Goatrade was for only six penguins. The total import value is around Rs 2.20 crore for six penguins, which means Rs 36.75 lakh per penguin.
“Our inquiries with people associated with animal import trade reveal that the cost of acquisition of Rs.36.75 lakh per Humboldt Penguin is very high and as such whether the cost of acquisition was inflated or not is the moot question,” he further alleged.
However, the civic officials denied that the allegations stating the proper procedure has been followed in the import of penguins. “The Goatrade was a consultant with us involved in importing the penguins. The actual supplier of the penguins is Coex aquarium in Seoul, South Korea. There is no cost escalation in the purchase of it,” said Sanjay Tripathi, director of the zoo.
Tripathi further said the work exhibit area is likely to be completed by month end. Then, we will take a call about placing the penguins for the public viewing, he added.
The eight penguins were brought to the city in July at a cost of about Rs 2 crore. An one-and-half-year-old female Humbolt penguin died on October 23 due to brief illness.
Following the death, Congress corporator and Opposition leader Pravin Chheda has complained to the Lokayukta against the civic officials and the Highway Construction Company, the contractor responsible for building the penguin enclosure at the zoo. Lokayukta is expected to hear it on November 23.