THE HUMANE Society International (HSI) India, an international animal welfare group, has written a new letter to CITES, saying the Byculla Zoo is not equipped to provide the essential standards for the upkeep of penguins. The letter said the Humboldt penguins should be returned to Korea from where they were imported. The Society also said the Byculla Zoo is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).3
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On November 4, the HSI India wrote to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pointing out the key guidelines for penguins from the ‘Penguin Care Manual’, published by AZA in 2014. Some of the issues raised include having an emergency back-up generator and contingency plans for moving the animals in case of a catastrophic event. Besides, it has also pointed out that the staff should have knowledge of the mechanical systems used in climate control to identify unusual signs and regular water quality checks.
“Upon careful consideration of the AZA Penguin Care Manual and in light of Byculla Zoo’s unarguably poor animal-keeping record as well as the climate of Mumbai, we believe that Byculla Zoo may not be able to provide the seven Humboldt penguins with high standard of living,” NG Jayasimha, managing director of HSI India, said in the letter. The letter adds that the Byculla Zoo is not one of the AZA-accredited zoos in India.
Jayasimha raised further questions over the zoo’s enclosures and lack of staff with specific experience or expertise in penguin care. “The government of India, as a party to the CITES, must take cognisance of the fact that Byculla Zoo is unlikely to be able to provide suitable housing and care for the penguins,” Jayasimha said. Considering all these issues, he said, the immediate action of sending the seven penguins back should be initiated.
Last week, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) issued a show-cause notice to the zoo management and sought a status report on the maintenance of the seven Humboldt penguins and the report of the post-mortem conducted on Dory, the dead penguin. The 18-month-old female Humboldt penguin died on October 23, reportedly of a bacterial infection.
Civic officials, however, said that they have adhered to the prescribed norms in setting up the quarantine section as well as the enclosure. “We will submit the report to the CZA this week. Also, the government has not appointed any NGOs as monitoring agencies to question us,” said Sanjay Tripathi, director of the Zoo.