KARACHI: The deaths of eight animals at the Karachi Zoo during the recent heatwave are being blamed on the apathetic attitude of the technical staff and caretakers. The zoo director, Muhammad Faheem Khan, admitted that if there was any carelessness with regards to the animals, it was from their end.
"I had suffered a heart attack last week and was hospitalised," he reasoned, adding that there was no one to take charge of the post behind him. "No one had imagined that this killer heatwave could affect animals such as peacocks and monkeys too," he said. The director said he had declared an emergency for the four zoologists and veterinary doctors in the zoo and increased their working hours.
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At least eight animals, including birds, have died in the Karachi Zoo during the last week. These include two peacocks, a brown monkey, a fallow deer, one hyena and two green monkeys. "Unfortunately, our zoo does not have the facility of fans and air-conditioned cages for animals like other zoos across the world." Khan pointed out that the Karachi Zoo had open cages, which was why the heat directly affected the animals. "Even the water in their ponds becomes hot when the mercury rises up to 44 degrees centigrade.
Animals at the Karachi Zoo are as affected by the heatwave as citizens of the city. Zoo officials are employing special measures such as the provision of extra ice slabs and ORS to help the animals beat the heat. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
Speaking about the steps they were taking to prevent such deaths in the future, he said: "We are providing Glucose-D to all animals and birds in the zoo twice a day and have also mixed ORS in their ponds where they bathe or play during the daytime."
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In view of the extreme weather, the zoo administration has increased the amount of ice being given to animals. Each day, at around 11am, all the animals are given ORS and glucose with water and after 12pm when the sun is at its peak, they are given ice slabs to lick and rest with till 6pm.
"The bigger animals such as lions, Bengal tigers, white tigers and elephants need special care," the director pointed out, "I was very worried about the golden baby tiger; he is from Australia and cannot bear the heat."
Pointing towards Rachel (the lion) licking an ice slab, the chief security officer at the zoo, Suleman Sajjad Hussain, explained that they also sprinkled ORS on the ice slabs. "When the animals lick the ice they automatically intake the ORS which helps them to maintain the salt in their body," he said. The four caretakers of the elephants, Malka Noor Jehan and Madhubala, shower them with a hose pipe after every two hours to keep their bodies cool.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2015.