Monday, 13 July 2020

Ghariyal death: Zoo officials tampered with evidence

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  • IANS

New Delhi, June 1 : The recent death of a female Ghariyal inside the National Zoological Park here has sparked a controversy leaving five zoo officials suspended. The death occurred "due to negligence", an internal enquiry report said.


The three-member internal committee found five officials guilty of the death of the animal. The members were -- Veterinary officer Abhijit Bhawal, Head Keeper Rajbir Singh, Assistant Keepers Deep Kumar and Vinod Kumar and Biological Assistant Manoj Kumar.

The panel in its report stated that the animal had already died on April 24, however, the carcass was found on April 26. "As per the Post Mortem Report, the death of the animal has occurred on 24.04.2020. Dr Abhijit Bhawal, Veterinary Officer has opined that it appeared to be a three days old carcass," the report stated.

It further stated "the Assistant Veterinary Officer found putrefied carcass of female gharial with foul smell and maggots on parts of the body, which "make it clear that the animal did not die after the 5.00 p.m. of 25.04.2020, the time up to which the Animal Keeper was on duty".

It was also found out during the probe that the death was due to the failure of the said officers of the Beat No. 11 who "failed" in discharging their duties. "The entire chain of command in the Beat No 11, right from Animal Keeper, Head Keeper and the In Charge Zoo Ranger (Biological Assistant) failed to perform their assigned duty," the enquiry report said.

The enquiry revealed that Head Keeper Rajbir Singh manipulated with the records by tampering with the entries in the register of the Beat No. 11. "On close examination of the entries made on 26.04.2020 by Rajbir Singh, Head Keeper, it is observed that initially he has made entry that "all the birds and Gharials are fine" (translated from Hindi).

"Afterwards, he has made another entry in continuation of his earlier entry that translates as "the female gharial has not been spotted. She is yet to be observed".

"The entry has been done on two different occasions (entire entry has not been done once) as is evident from the colour of the ink and the font (size) of the handwriting," the report said. The panel also stated that the perusal of his handwritten entry makes it very clear that the two sentences have not been entered at the same time.

On examining the statement of the other officials, the committee opined, "Thus, this entry has been made subsequently by Rajbir Singh after coming to know about the death of the female gharial to cover up his lapses of not seeing the animal personally and also submitting false report to his higher authorities."

It was found out that the Head Keeper made a similar entry claiming that all animals are fine on April 25, however, the gharial had already died on April 24.

While all the members who were responsible recorded their statement before the committee, Rajbir neither appeared before the committee, nor did he submit his statement.

"Rajbir Singh, Head Keeper did not submit any statement in writing to the committee nor he made himself present before the committee for recording of his statement in spite of letter dated 28.04.2020. It is also pertinent to mention here that the Director, NZP also advised Rajbir SinghÂ…vide his letter dated 30.04.2020 to provide statement to the committee," the report stated.

Singh has been put under suspension following the findings of the committee, a source in the Delhi zoo told IANS over the phone.

While Rajbir was found guilty of tampering with evidence and negligence, Veterinary Officer Bhawal was found guilty of dereliction of his duty.

"Dr. Abhijit Bhawal did not visit the Beat No 11 from 23.04.2020 to 26.04.2020. Whereas, it is the duty of the Veterinary Officer to visit each and every Beat of the zoo on each and every day and examine the animals and record his observations and directions in the Beat Register. This is dereliction of duty on the part of the Veterinary Officer," the committee said.

The zoo has been in the headlines over a large number of animal deaths. According to a census, the Delhi Zoo recorded 245 deaths from April 2018 to June 2019 'the second-highest mortality figure in five years'.

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