To ensure daily supply of meat for its large carnivores following the closure of the Ghazipur abattoir, the Delhi Zoo has secured permission to slaughter live feed at the zoo itself. The zoo requires 259 kg of buffalo meat daily to feed 8-12 kg each to 20 tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars, besides over a dozen wolves, jackals, and hyenas in its custody.
On March 25, soon after the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) shut down the Ghazipur abattoir as part of the 21-day lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Delhi Zoo director Suneesh Buxy flagged the logistical problems in securing food for the zoo animals.
“In order to provide feed to the carnivore species on a daily basis, it is requested to kindly permit the procurement of live feed (Buffalo-Calf) directly from the contractor. It is also requested to allow slaughtering of the Iive feed at the Zoo itself,” wrote Buxy in a letter to EDMC.
“We had to ensure that the animals housed in the National Zoological Park do not suffer during the 21-day lockdown. After an intervention by the Central Zoo Authority, zoos have been included under essential services. The municipality and police fully cooperated with the Delhi zoo to ensure the daily supply of meat,” Buxy told The Indian Express.
Accordingly, the Delhi Zoo has been receiving four buffalo calves daily. “On March 25, we had to manage with chicken. Since March 26, the contractor transports and slaughters the animals daily. The zoo has its own meat house, where two of our designated attendants apportion meat for feeding individual animals,” said a zoo officer looking after the process.
The Delhi Zoo continues to procure chicken and fish from the market for its smaller carnivore species. While some zoos, such as the ones in Himachal Pradesh, shifted from buffalo to chicken meat for their big cats due to “quality issues” years ago, others, like the Jaipur zoo, had to make the switch in the wake of the recent lockdown.
Across the globe, prolonged lockdowns have adversely affected captive animals. According to media reports, hundreds of animals have been left to feed on each other and die as a zoo in China’s Hunan province remained shut for two months.
In Thailand, more than 1,000 elephants face starvation as the coronavirus pandemic has stalled tourism and left caretakers with meagre resources. In the UK, a zoo official in Somerset warned that many zoos would have to close and consider euthanising some animals if staff had to scour the shops for food.
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