53 of the 153 birds quarantined died, of diverse causes, but DRI contests trauma claim
By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
Published 18.12.18, 3:19 AM
Updated 18.12.18, 3:44 PM
A third of the exotic wild birds confiscated from smugglers this year have died in quarantine, leading the intelligence agency behind the crackdown on wildlife trade to question if the Alipore zoo hospital is safe for the rest of the menagerie.
Asis Kumar Samanta, the director of the zoo, reported the bird deaths in a letter to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on November 1. A report appended to the letter mentions that 53 of the 153 birds quarantined at the hospital died of causes as diverse as “infighting injury”, “enteris” and “neurogenic shock”. The report has been signed by all three zoo veterinarians.
The first death was of a Turquoise Grass Parakeet on June 2. Eight Pygmy Falcons, among the smallest birds of prey and native to Africa, died between July 12 and 20. They had been rescued on June 27.
A Gouldian Finch, much sought after for its gorgeous plumage, died on September 28. This species is named after Elizabeth Gould, the wife of the English ornithologist John Gould.
The last death mentioned in the report is of a Rosella on October 30. The list of avians lost to disease or injury while in quarantine also contains Eclectus Parrots, Kookaburras and the fascinating Bird of Paradise.
Deepankar Aron, the additional director-general of the DRI’s Calcutta unit, said he had sought an inquiry into the deaths. “I have already written to the zoo authorities asking for a probe and sent a copy of my response to the chief wildlife warden. Our priority is the well-being of the remaining birds. I have requested the authorities to ensure that.”
Several other DRI officials said the number of bird deaths reported in quarantine couldn’t have happened if conditions at the hospital were right. “How can they mention ‘infighting’ as the cause of death? These are not lions and tigers. They should have more cages if the birds are fighting for space,” an official said.