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Experts warn of spread of disease in Karachi zoo animals

Experts warn of spread of disease in Karachi zoo animals

KARACHI: While the zoo administration is yet to diagnose and declare the disease afflicting Sarah, an exotic white lioness, for the past two months, experts on Sunday called upon the government to take immediate notice of the zoo’s unhygienic conditions, which, they said, was the major reason for disease and death in captive animals.

The situation, they warned, might become worse if the disease spread to other animals.

Speaking to Dawn, members of the zoo advisory committee, on condition of anonymity, expressed concern over the ailing lioness and said the government needed to seriously look into the administrative and financial issues the facility had been facing for a long time to improve the standard of zoo care.

“We all know that there is an acute shortage of competent and qualified staff. It is time that the issue is given due attention before the government invests money in bringing more animals and revamping the facility,” said a senior vet. According to him, proper sanitary conditions and de-worming are important for animal health, especially among carnivores. “Animals should be de-wormed at regular intervals otherwise they become vulnerable to infections. Besides, cages need to be cleaned with disinfectants,” he said.

The infection of the lioness, he said, was serious. “Such infections usually take weeks to become severe. In case of neglect, a skin infection can became worse and take the life of the animal.”

Meanwhile, the zoo administration hasn’t yet carried out any laboratory test so far to determine the cause of infection, which, according to sources, also claimed the life of a fox a few days ago.

No zoo official was available for comment.

Upon contact, Dr Badar Jamil, the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) commissioner, said that he visited the zoo after learning about the Sarah’s illness through the media. “I was told by the staff that her condition has improved and she is being treated properly. I will visit the facility again next week,” he said.

Directives had been given to the zoo staff to improve hygienic conditions at the zoo, he added.

The commissioner was unaware that the lioness had been ill for two months and if any laboratory tests had been carried out.

“I have no information on the fox’s death. As for the lab tests, I will ask the administration,” he said in reply to another question.

About the façade of the lion cage ruined by scratches, he said the provincial government had allocated a budget of Rs300m for revamping and inducting more animals and “things would improve in the coming years”.

It is noteworthy that Sarah, the white lioness, has been suffering from a serious skin infection for the past two months. Her misery is largely hidden from public view as the front side of the cage, made of acrylic glass, has been completely ruined by marks and scratches.

She and her mate were brought from South Africa in 2012 at a cost of Rs10m.

No meeting of the zoo advisory committee, sources also revealed, had been called for the past many months.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2017

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