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Delhi Zoo's Last Cape Buffalo Just Died After Eating Plastic, And It's Probably Our Fault

Cape Buffaloes also called African buffalo are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths.

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Updated:September 5, 2019, 12:57 PM IST
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Delhi Zoo's Last Cape Buffalo Just Died After Eating Plastic, And It's Probably Our Fault
Cape Buffaloes also called African buffalo are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths.
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A lone Cape buffalo, a large African bovine at the National Zoological Park in Delhi, died on August 27. A week after the death of the male Cape buffalo, a species found only in Africa, it has been found that the animal may have died after consuming a plastic bag possibly discarded by a visitor to the zoo, reported Hindustan Times.

“During post-mortem, a plastic packet was found in its stomach. The plastic might have flown into the (animal) enclosure. Visitors often come with plastic bags in the zoo and discard them,” the daily quoted a senior official at the zoo, who told on the condition of anonymity, as saying.

A letter which was written on September 1 by the zoo’s veterinary officer Abhijit Bhawal to zoo director Renu Singh that was accessed by Hindustan Times, verified this. “Further incidence of plastic in the stomach of the Cape Buffalo has raised many questions. Hence, I would request you to kindly take the matter seriously,” the letter stated.

The zoo’s curator RA Khan confirmed the death of the male Cape buffalo, but said he was “clueless” about the cause as the post-mortem report was with the zoo director.

The report said some of the zoo officials informed that it was not the first time that an animal had died in the zoo after consuming plastic. In the early 1990s, a kangaroo was suspected to have died after eating plastic.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. The zoo should be kept clean, particularly the area around enclosures,” Hindustan Times quoted BS Bonal, former member-secretary of the Central Zoo Authority, saying.

“Delhi is a declared no-plastic zone. But it remains only on paper. Visitors enter the zoo freely with plastic bags and even throw them everywhere inside the premises. There is no check,” the report quoted animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, trustee of the People for Animals, a non-governmental organization, saying.

During his speech on the 73rd Independence Day, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens to eliminate single-use plastic and suggested that shopkeepers provide eco-friendly bags to customers by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the report, Delhi zoo had two Cape buffaloes, one of which died of tuberculosis in February 2017.

Cape Buffaloes also called African buffalo are known to kill lions and humans and are often tagged as Black Deaths. Inhabitants of woodland savannas, large herds of African buffaloes are encountered in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, with smaller herds in Zululand and the Eastern Cape.

The letter penned by Bhawal also mentions a meeting of the zoo’s health committee on August 7 where the issue of lack of cleanliness in the zoo was also raised. “The members of the health committee have also conveyed that cleanliness and hygiene in the National Zoological Park is not good. AM Pawde (head of the wildlife department at the Bareilly-based Indian Veterinary Research Institute) has specifically pointed out lapses in the cleanliness around enclosures,” read the letter.

It also lists a number of measures that need to be taken inside the zoo and staff quarters to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases including dengue and malaria.

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