The Indian Express | 3 days ago | 07-08-2022 | 12:50 am
The Union government has put a stop to a three-year-old plan by Mumbai’s Byculla zoo to procure two zebra pairs from the Ramat Gan Safari Park in Israel.In 2020, the Byculla zoo, officially known as Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo, planned to exchange procured zebras with Sakkarbaug Zoological Park in Junagadh, Gujarat and Kamla Nehru Prani Sangrahalaya in Indore and receive Asiatic lions. Thailand-based Goatrade Farming Company Ltd was awarded the contract last year to procure and then transport these zebras.However, the central department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying rejected the zoo’s proposal, as Israel is without an official status of ‘African Horse sickness’. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) members’ official African horse sickness status map (updated in May 2022), Israel is one of the countries without an official status for AHS. India is recognised as free from AHS.According to the import regulation, the import of zebras shall be allowed only from a country free from AHS. The zoo is now looking for a new country to procure zebras, confirmed its director Sanjay Tripathi.A zoo official said, “In the past, several other zoos in the country received zebras from Israel’s zoo. However, this is a new regulation and we were unaware of it.”The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is the global authority on animal health and is an inter-governmental organisation focusing on transparently disseminating information on animal diseases, improving animal health globally. ‘African Horse sickness’ is a deadly equine disease, a vector-borne disease transmitted by bloodsucking midges of the genus Culicoides.It has been a threat to horses in sub-Saharan Africa ever since it was first recorded in 1569 in East Africa, but the virus has also spread sporadically to countries in North Africa, West Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, South-West Asia, the Mediterranean region and, more recently, Southeast Asia. It can swiftly kill between 50 per cent and 95 per cent of infected horses and can also cause chronic disease in other equids (mules, donkeys, and zebras).Procuring zebras and in turn, Asiatic Lions, was one of the big projects under the zoo’s expansion plan. It had planned to bring the lions by the end of this year.The Mumbai Zoo, till 2005, was home to three lions. However, the Byculla zoo hasn’t had a lion in its captivity since 2014. The last surviving lioness was Jimmy, the 16-year-old African-Asiatic hybrid which died in 2014 due to prolonged illness. Jimmy was an African-Asiatic hybrid born on March 28, 1998, in the zoo. In 2010, a 22-year-old purebred Asiatic lioness named Anita passed away of old age.The procurement of the zebras from an international zoo was necessitated after the Central Zoo Authority directed the Byculla zoo to provide animals in exchange for the Asiatic lions in 2019. The Byculla zoo does not have the same. The Central Zoo Authority regulates the exchange of animals in the endangered category listed under Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, among zoos.