Zoo’s adored Suzi dies lonely at 35

Wildlife secretary suspends zoo director for 90 days

Rana Tanveer May 14, 2017
Wildlife secretary suspends zoo director for 90 days. PHOTO: ONLINE

LAHORE: Suzi, the Lahore Zoo’s only elephant and a regular feature on the pages of newspapers, died on Saturday after spending a few days with acute pain in her legs. She was 35-years-old.

The African bush elephant never experienced the harmony of living with her own species and was brought to the zoo at just six years of age. The year was 1988.

According to the zoo administration, the calf was named Suzi due to her friendly and docile demeanour.

A team of doctors from the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) conducted Suzi’s autopsy at the Lahore Zoo. “It is a standard operating procedure (SOP) to conduct a postmortem of every animal which dies at the recreational facility,” said Zoo Director Shafqat Ali. While speaking to The Express Tribune, Shafqat said Suzi will be buried at Lahore Zoo for three to five months to allow the body to decompose. After that period, she will be exhumed to extract the skeleton, he added.

Punjab University requested for Suzi’s skin for stuffing, while UVAS requested for her skeleton. Pakistan Museum of Natural History had also put in a requested for the skeleton. However, Shafqat said he would prefer to give the skeleton to UVAS as recognition for the veterinary care provided by the varsity. He said her tusks would be kept at the Zoo. Shafqat asked UVAS to use technology to decompose the body for the skeleton, but the administration said it lacked the necessary technology.

Recommendations by World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), as outlined in the accreditation standards and related policies 2016, states, “Each zoo with elephants must have a minimum of three females (or the space to accommodate three females), two males or three elephants of mixed gender.”

However, due to the shortage of funds and lack of African elephants, Suzi was a lone ranger that had been at the zoo since 1988, said Wildlife Department Deputy Director Muhammad Naeem Bhatti.

He said there would be a meeting of the zoo administration on Monday to acquire another elephant for the facility. Naeem said it was common to host female elephants as they were far more manageable than the males. He hoped that at least a couple of elephants from African countries would join the zoo family.

Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department Secretary Captain (Retd) Jahanzeb Khan suspended Zoo Director Shafqat Ali due to “inefficiency and for not taking proper steps for the treatment of the elephant”. He took this action under Section 6 of the PEEDA Act 2006 for a period of 90 days or till completion of an inquiry into the incident. Lahore Division Wildlife Deputy Director Hassan Ali has been given the additional charge of Zoo director.

The secretary formed a seven-member inquiry committee to determine the reasons behind Suzi’s death. Suzi was one of the greatest attractions at the zoo, enthralling all visitors, especially children. According to reports, the zoo administration stopped people riding on her back in 1999. They tried to resume the activity in 2001, but the animal was no longer able or even willing to carry the weight on her back.

In 2013, when the administration tried to start rides once again, Suzi responded well, but the zoo administration did not have the authorisation for this purpose.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2017.


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