Humboldt Penguin death in Mumbai Zoo: Centre seeks explanation

Mumbai, Nov 2 (IANS) The Ministry of Environment’s Central Zoo Authority has demanded an explanation on the death of a female Homboldt Penguin, named Dory, at the Mumbai Zoo on October 23.

The CZA Member-Secretary D.N. Singh has sought a reply from Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta on the issue and related points raised in a representation made by the Humane Society International (India).

The HSI has raised doubts whether the Coex Aquarium, Seoul, in South Korea is registered with the the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as a captive breeding centre for Humboldt Penguins and if the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation had secured all the requisite import certification.

The HSI also raised doubts on the suitability and appropriateness for housing and care of the Humboldt Penguins at the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, or Mumbai Zoo, under the norms prescribed by the CITES.

Since the death of the female flightless bird occurred due to Septicemia while in quarantine, pointing to poor standards of care at the Mumbai Zoo, the CZA has asked the BMC to provide a detailed report on the autopsy carried out on the dead penguin by this weekend.

The HSI has also pointed out norms of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for keeping Humboldt Penguins in captivity and said that in view of the above, it would be inhumane and irresponsible to keep the remaining seven birds at Mumbai Zoo.

A major political row had erupted in Maharashtra after the death of the female bird, with most parties questioning the wisdom of keeping the endangered species in the harsh tropical climate of Mumbai.

The penguins, flown in from Seoul on July 26, are undergoing an acclimatisation spell in a specially-designed air-conditioned enclosure before going on public display later this month.

After the death of Dory, all major political parties have demanded that the remaining seven Humboldt Penguins be returned as they can survive only in cold regions and the warm Mumbai climate does not suit them.

Commenting on the pet project of Yuva Sena Chief Aditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, the Congress and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena said the penguins were brought here for someone’s “childish stubbornness” and the mute bird died.

Since the past 10 days after the death of Dory, the BMC has not indicated any change of stance on the remaining seven Humboldt Penguins.