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June 13, 2018

Lack of skilled staff blamed for animals’ deaths at Peshawar Zoo


June 13, 2018

PESHAWAR: The management on Tuesday denied any negligence on its part in handling the animals at the facility and blamed the deaths at the Peshawar Zoo on the lack of skilled staff.

A government committee, which was constituted to investigate the deaths of dozens of animals at the zoo and fix responsibility, has held the management of the facility responsible for poor handling of the animals and failure to improve the habitat for the animals and birds.

The report pointed out lack of required and qualified staff, mishandling and mistreatment of animals, harsh living conditions, chopping of trees and their exposure to heat.

It held the project director, administration officer and vet responsible for the death and unfavourable conditions at the Peshawar Zoo.

Project Director Muhammad Ali Khan said that the management was trying its best to take proper care and arrange suitable habitat for the animals and birds in the facility. He said the zoo currently had 34 employees against the sanctioned 64, adding the zoo needed 250 employees.

Muhammad Ali Khan said the present staff included managerial, vets and assistants, watchmen and other class-IV employees.

The official said that previously there were no services rules to recruit the required staff. “We formulated the services rules and sent a summery to the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for recruitment of 193 employees but the staff could not be employed due the ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan on new jobs in the government departments in April last,” Muhammad Ali Khan said.

He conceded that the zoo lacked skilled staff, adding the staff could not be recruited in absence of service rules and without the government approval.

The official said the zoo has acquired the services of around 80 daily wagers to look after the animals and manage its other affairs. He said that there was one vet and two assistants. “We needed four vets and 14 assistants to handle the animals and birds,” he added.

The project director said the Peshawar Zoo was larger than that of Lahore in Punjab and Karachi Zoo in Sindh and should be provided more staff to handle the situation.

He confirmed that there was no laboratory at the zoo but said that they were availing the services of the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI) at the Agriculture University for the purpose. “We are trying our level best to handle the situation with limited staff,” he added.

He said the zoo was constructed in two years and saplings had been planted there, adding it would take time to fully grow and provide shade to its inhabitants and visitors.

The official said that there were 60-65 different animals and 1200-1,300 bird species at the zoo.

Former chief minister Pervez Khattak inaugurated the zoo on February 22, this year.

The original plan was to open the zoo in 2020 but as it was alleged and also pointed out in the findings of the investigation committee, it was inaugurated before completion by the PTI government for ‘political point-scoring.’

An official in a recent statement had confirmed that around 40 animals and birds have so far been died at the facility.

Three cubs of a common leopard had died in one day on May 30 last. A snow leopard at the zoo had reportedly died of a heart attack suffered by it due to rising temperature while a deer died after suffering serious head injury while a monkey was mauled by a wolf and later died of its wounds.

The sources said that the most of the animals and birds had died after contracting respiratory diseases.