Probe smells ‘foul play’ in death of blackbuck at Kanpur zoo

In an inquiry into the death of 31 blackbuck in the Kanpur zoo during the intervening night of January 19 and 20, the Animal Welfare Board of India, (AWBI), which is an independent body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has questioned the role of state officials and their claim that the protected animals died after stray dogs entered the enclosure.

Kamna Pandey, AWBI member who conducted the inquiry, told The Indian Express: "We cannot rule out foul play, as there are too many discrepancies in the statements of officials. If blackbuck died when they hit the fence in panic after dogs entered the enclosure, then why there is no head injury?"

Pandey, who reached

the Kanpur zoo on the morning of January 20, said AWBI is planning another detailed enquiry.

She said there were several holes in the state officials' theory. Though the boundary wall of the Kanpur zoo was broken, the enclosure of blackbuck, which is situated nearly 80 metres from the boundary, had no signs of breach. Also, the enclosure is surrounded by iron railings with spikes, it is nearly three metres in height and covered with wire mesh.

"It is really amazing that the dogs choose the blackbuck when there are hundreds of spotted deer roaming freely in the zoo campus. Zoo officials stated that in the past also, dogs had been feeding on spotted deer. So what prompted them to jump so high and enter the blackbuck enclosure?" Pandey asked.

She said that the zoo officials' claim of shooting three dogs (two inside the blackbuck enclosure) at night is far from convincing. "It is strange that the shooting was done inside the enclosure of a Schedule-I protected animal, it can lead to heart failure of blackbuck. Besides, the shooting prowess of the zoo official is great if he can shoot two running dogs with two shots on a chilly winter night in torch light," she said.

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