One of the four giraffes and two impalas died at the upcoming Sardar Patel Zoological Park in Kevadia Colony near the Statue of Unity, generating much concern around the health of the exotic and rare animals being imported from different countries, Gujarat government officials say that some mortality was expected as a natural process of displacement of animals.
About 80 specimens of over 15 species of animals arrived in Kevadia in October and most of them continue to be in quarantine as per the mandatory process laid down by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
The park was scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, but it is yet to open.
On Tuesday, the death of a giraffe and two impalas in the park were reported, with the Director of the park Dr Ram Ratan Nala terming it peracute mortality syndrome, which affects giraffes even as the autopsy report of the animals is awaited.
Sources told this newspaper that the contract for shipping and customs clearances of animals was handed to a Hyderabad-based company, Seaways Shipping, which holds expertise in the area. The company, an official added, had recommended chartering Boeing 777 aircraft for two batches of animals that arrived in Kevadia in two batches in October. A first batch of 30 animals consisting of rare species like Wallabies (found primarily in Australia), Llamas and Alpacas (found mostly in South America) were transported from Netherlands to Hyderabad and onward to Kevadia mid-October while over 43 exotic animals, including giraffes, zebras, blue wildebeest, gemsbok, oryx and impalas were transported from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Ahmedabad on a chartered flight on October 28.
However, according to Rajeev Kumar Gupta, Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd., and also Additional Chief Secretary (Forests & Environment), the deaths are not a sign of inability to adapt. “It was of course 100 per cent expected to have some mortality. It happens even when animals are transported from one zoo to another within the country. Even if trees are uprooted from one place and planted elsewhere, some do not survive. All animals that were imported were in good health and all necessary vaccinations and health protocols were followed. The due process of quarantine were also followed.”
Gupta said that the giraffe that died on Tuesday was one among the four imported from Africa. Gupta said, “We got four giraffes. One giraffe had hurt its foot a few days ago and was undergoing treatment. It is possible that it could not cope with the stress. The two impalas, however, died after they fell from a height while running around.”
Gupta also said that the authorities were exercising more caution although the mortalities are not serious in nature. “Given the fact that some animals have died, we have now decided to separate them from the lot and give them time in their own open spaces to be comfortable and adapt to the surroundings. We have also called in experts from Anand veterinary college as well as from Gandhinagar to look into the health and well-being of all animals,” he said.
Officials said that process laid down by the CZA was duly followed in the case of each import. According to an employee of Seaways shipping, the transport logistics company that delivered the animals to the Gujarat authorities, the entire process was carefully planned. “Preparation of the extensive documentation and briefing the customs officials went according to plan. There were some challenges as well… Long distance journeys can be stressing for animals, especially since the enclosures are meant to be small to prevent injuries while to movement in transit.”
The handler also shared that as per the CZA rules, the animals were brought in wooden enclosures with enough ventilation and hessain pads for bedding. The CZA guidelines for captive animals state, “It is important that all transportation containers should have inner surfaces which are completely free of any projecting nails, screws, ends of mesh or any other sharp material, which could cause injury to the animal… Moreover, if any wood preservative or paint is used on the container, it should not be toxic or a skin irritant… The transportation container should have adequate air circulation at all times…”
According to the shipping company executive, the animals were accompanied by a team of assistants and a veterinarian all through the journey. “The guidelines prohibit transport via road for distances over 1000 kilometres preferring railways instead but since these species were rare and quarantine was an important issue, they were flown to Ahmedabad by air. Most of the animals are sub-adults of the age 4 to 6 years,” the official said.
According to CZA guidelines, the procedure and process for acquiring animals from zoos abroad recommends acquiring more than two specimens of a species. “While negotiating with the foreign zoo, try to acquire at least two pairs or more number of specimens you propose to add to your collection plan. This will ensure that even if one animal dies during transit, you are left with at least three or more specimens,” it states.