Delhi HC directs National Zoo authorities to look into death of rare animals, appoint staff

The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the National Zoological Park and the Central government authorities to “cure the deficiencies” pointed out by a litigant regarding the death of various animals in the zoo and the appointment of staff in the park.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad was hearing a plea seeking direction to fill up the posts of zoo keepers, assistant keepers, attendants, food distributors, and chowkidars.

The plea further sought direction to the zoo authorities to provide sufficient medical equipment for the investigation and diagnosis of the diseases of the animals kept in the zoological park. It sought direction to the Animal Welfare Board of India to constitute a committee for the investigation into the cause of death of the wild animals and to check the system of the National Zoological Park for the quality, quantity, freshness and sufficient food to the wild animals as per their dietary habits.

When the matter was called today, the HC said that it shall direct the authorities to look into the matter and take appropriate action.

Advocate J K Gupta appearing for the litigant, Salek Chand Jain, claimed that his client has made a representation to the zoo authorities on December 3, 2022, requesting them to pass a detailed speaking order and take appropriate remedial steps with respect to the issues pointed out by him.

The HC noted that the concerns raised by the litigant “appeared to be genuine”. The chairman of Central Zoo Authority, director of the National Zoological Park, the secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India have been arrayed as respondents in the matter.

The HC thereafter said, “Respondents are directed to take all steps to cure the deficiencies pointed out by the petitioner to appoint staff in the zoo…and pass detailed speaking orders on the grievances of the petitioner.” It ordered that the exercise be completed in two months.

The plea alleged that there is a “heavy shortage of staff” in Delhi Zoo; only 72 staff members are working which includes one veterinary officer, keeper and other staff as compared to the sanctioned “203 posts” in the year 2020-2021 to look after and monitor the animals and birds kept in the zoo

The plea claimed that there were 172 animal and bird casualties between April 2019 and March 2020 and 124 between April 2020 and March 2021.

The plea further claimed that nine big cat species (white tigers, lions, lioness, jaguar and tigers) and their three cubs died between September 2019 and December 2022. “It was very shocking but the respondents never cared to set up a committee to investigate the cause of the death of the big cats and their cubs,” the plea alleged.

The petitioner claimed that seven out of eight monitor lizards – a rare species – are missing, but “no effort was made by the management” to carry out a search for them, which is part of “some foul play”. He alleged that the missing monitor lizards might have been smuggled with the connivance of the zoo authority.

The plea claimed that despite repeated representations to the respondents, no action has been taken till date by the respondents.