HYDERABAD: The death of three animals at the Nehru Zoological Park within three weeks, and four animals being confined in the health centre, shows that most animals held captive do not live to their expected lifespan.
Veterinary doctors said such animals need more care than the ones in the wild, especially for their diet. The wounds sustained by the captive animals need to be treated extremely carefully.
Deepa, a 22-year-old female leopard, died at the zoo of bronchitis, but had lived past the 18 years that is the average life expectancy in captivity. The zoo also lost a 44-year-old elephant, Jamuna, to chronic respiratory problems on June 21 and an Asiatic lion named Crazy passed away on June 28 due to septicaemia.
Over 49 animals died in zoos during 2015-16 according to the Central Zoo Authority.
Zoo curator Sivani Dogre said, “Most deaths at zoos are due to infighting or digestive tract diseases. Some of the deaths are due to old age.”
Veterinarians narrate a different tale. Veterinarian A. Jacob Sunny said, “No matter what, when a wild animal is kept captive, they require a different kind of attention. The digestive tract diseases that occur frequently in zoo animals is because of low immunity that is developed under captive conditions.”
Doctors say that the diet of each of the animals in the zoo should be specifically designed. “We should stop looking at zoo-bred animals as wild animals and chart out a diet for each of them instead of for the species in general,” Dr Sunny said.
He said there was a case in Lahore zoo where animals were fed broiler chicken which is said to caused itching in the throats of animals.
Doctors say that despite the zoo’s best efforts, a few animals just cannot get used to the weather conditions that are different from its habitat.
Dr Sunil Kapoor, a veterinarian, said, “Animals are often transferred between zoos and the different weather conditions could affect them adversely. Similarly, there is a bond between a keeper and the animal that is ignored.”
C. Srinivasulu, senior zoologist, said, “Zoo breeding is leading to a lot of problems in the gene pool of animals. Growing up in a closed environment, their immunity is severely compromised and the captive animals are susceptible to diseases that humans or domestic animals get.” He said the zoo animals needed extra medical care which they may not get.