Gharial death at Delhi zoo: Inquiry panel finds 5 employees guilty of negligence

Last Updated 31 May 2020, 07:43 IST

The Delhi zoo administration has found five of its employees guilty of negligence in the death of a female gharial last month, according to the findings of an inquiry report.

The gharial had died on April 24 and its putrefied carcass was found three days later.

"The opinion of experts that the carcass was three days' old was supported by collateral and scientific evidence of observation of maggots in the carcass, its putrefaction and the foul smell emanating from it," a three-member inquiry panel said in its report.

The panel found five employees of the zoo -- Assistant Keepers Deep Kumar and Vinod Kumar, Head Keeper Rajbir Singh, Biological Assistant Manoj Kumar and Veterinary Officer Abhijit Bhawal -- guilty of "negligence and dereliction of duty".

The head keeper was also found guilty of tampering of records of the zoo in a bid to conceal the negligence on his part, the inquiry committee comprising Veterinary Consultant of Central Zoo Authority Mrinalini Saini, Zoo Ranger Saurabh Vashishtha and Laboratory Assistant Rakesh Kumar Sharma said.

The panel said Assistant Keeper Deep Kumar made entry into the records on April 24 and April 25, saying all animals including the gharial were in good condition, which was factually incorrect.

"He made entries without actually seeing the animal," it said.

"Officiating Head Keeper Vinod Kumar has admitted that he did not see the animal physically and made the entry as per the observations of the daily paid labour," the inquiry report said.

Similarly, Head Keeper Rajbir Singh did not inspect the animal personally, it said.

Biological Assistant Manoj Kumar mentioned in the records that the gharial was observed behaving normally on April 24 and April 25.

Veterinary Officer Abhijit Bhawal did not visit the gharial from April 23 to April 26, "whereas it is the duty of the veterinary officer to visit and examine all the animals in the zoo and record his observations", the report said.

A zoo official said Rajbir Singh has been placed under suspension and action is pending against the others.

Former CZA member secretary D N Singh said it was a major lapse on the part of all zoo staff responsible for care and upkeep of animals.

"Everyday, all of them are mandated to personally observe each and every wild animal in the zoo. It is their duty to see whether each animal has taken its entire feed offered, whether it is displaying normal behaviour, etc. In case of any aberration, it is mentioned in the records and medical care is provided to the animal," he said.

"The inquiry report makes it clear that all observations and reports are written without actual observation of animals," he said.

D N Singh also alleged that the transfer of the Delhi zoo from the wildlife wing of the Environment Ministry to the CZA has not brought any improvement in the management of the zoo.

The zoo has been in the headlines recently over a large number of animal deaths and allegations of irregularities by staff.

According to a census, the Delhi zoo recorded 245 deaths from April 2018 to June 2019 — the second-highest mortality figure in five years.

As per information available on the website of the CZA, the Delhi zoo's mortality rate in 2018-19 was 15.12 percent, which is the highest among all major zoos in the country.

The zoo has lost all its population of giraffe, zebra and chimpanzee. Overall, it has lost the entire populations of 10 species of animals since 2016.

(Published 31 May 2020, 07:10 IST)

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