Substandard, unhygienic food causing animal deaths at Lahore Zoo

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LAHORE: Substandard and unhygienic food is becoming the leading cause of death among animals and birds at Lahore Zoo due to the negligence of high-ups of the Wildlife Department, Pakistan Today has reliably learnt.

According to reliable sources, the quality of food served to animals and birds at the zoo was below standard and was affecting the health of animals. “Whenever a costly animal dies, two to three officials are suspended from service. The zoo management does not fix responsibility on any one, since the real cause of the deaths is absence of well-trained veterinary doctors and healthy food,” the sources said.

The sources further said that contracts to deliver food to animals were being awarded to blue-eyed contractors who greased the palms of top zoo administration. “In this scenario, the ultimate sufferers are the voiceless animals and birds since they cannot raise hue and cry over bad treatment meted out to them by zoo authorities,” the sources maintained.

The sources also claimed that Suzi, Lahore Zoo’s only elephant, died in May this year after spending a few days with acute pain in her legs due to consumption of unhygienic food. After Suzi, a number of animals, including lions, cheetahs, giraffes and other animals, have also died in the zoo due to the same reason.

According to a veterinary doctor requesting anonymity, the Lahore Zoo administration was giving poultry broiler chicken to wild animals, such as lions and leopards, which was not the primary meat option for these animals in the jungle. Sources, “It is a big joke to feed the big cats broiler chicken. Something like this is not even seen in movies, where a lion usually hunts big game, and not a broiler chicken.”

He explained that wild animals faced a lot of difficulties while eating poultry meat because it caused itching in their throats. “If you visit the zoo, you will certainly see broiler chicken being served to lions, leopards and other big cats in Lahore Zoo,” he added.

The veterinary doctor said that chicken meat mixed with bones caused itching in the throats of animals, adding that animals were seen coughing and sneezing all the time after having a meal.

Lahore Zoo Director Hassan Ali Sukhera defended serving of broiler chicken to wild animals, and said, “The meat which we eat at homes is not harmful for animals. Animals can eat what we eat at homes.”

He rejected claims of substandard and unhygienic food served to animals and refused to give much details about the shady role of the contractor mafia in this regard. He said, “The contracts for food of animals and birds are given to qualified contractors after a thorough research and holding a transparent process of bidding.”

He revealed that a high-level five-member committee of the zoo inspected food served to animals every morning, before allowing it to be served to different animals and birds.

Sukhera said, “The presence of three members of the committee is a must for checking the quality of food served to animals. There is no chance of substandard food being given to animals. The animals which are used as food are slaughtered before the eyes of members of the committee and served to the animals directly.”

However, he said the zoo was considering getting the meat from the government-run poultry shops so as to further improve the quality of meat. “The zoo is holding talks with Punjab Livestock and Poultry Department to acquire hygienic meat to safeguard the health of animals in the zoo, and to end doubts about the motives of the zoo contractors,” he concluded.