Zoo cries foul after elephant deaths

Zoo cries foul after elephant deaths
By the BBC’s Habib Beary

BBC News
October 25, 2004

Komala was a darling of one of India’s oldest zoos.

But the seven-year-old elephant calf died in agony after what officials
at Msyore zoo in southern India are calling a conspiracy by insiders.

They suspect she could be the latest victim of poisoning by disgruntled
employees, and, perhaps, a persistent campaign to discredit the zoo for
reasons unknown.

Two elephants and an endangered lion-tailed macaque died in similar
circumstances in August.

“This is shocking,” the zoo’s director, Manoj Kumar, told BBC News
Online, as officials began an inquiry on Monday.


Karnataka state’s Chief Minister, Dharam Singh, said he wanted a
detailed investigation.

We suspect foul play. All the deaths could be due to poisoning Zoo
director Manoj Kumar

“The truth should come out. Officials have to be alert. There seems to
be negligence.”

The 110-year-old zoo in Mysore is home to 1,100 animals.

Komala, described as attractive and playful, was due to have flown to
Armenia as a gift from Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam – she had been
handpicked for her pleasing features, officials say.

Doctors battled for hours to save her on Friday, but in vain.

“It is really unfortunate. The elephant was to fly out on 14 October but
we could not get a confirmed cargo booking,” said Mr Kumar.

“The next date fixed was 30 October but destiny had other plans.

“We suspect foul play. All the deaths could be due to poisoning. We have
taken the help of the police to catch the guilty.”

He said Komala had died despite tight security arrangements following
the deaths of the two other elephants, Ganesha and Roopa, and the
lion-tailed macaque in August.

The latter was a “breeder” on loan from a zoo in Madras as part of the
lion-tail monkey conservation programme.

Zoo authorities called in the police after preliminary investigations
revealed foul play.

Officials say Ganesha and Roopa had acute haemorrhagic enteritis and
respiratory distress caused by zinc phosphide, normally used as poison
for rodents.

Security revamp

This is not the first time animals have died mysteriously in captivity
in Mysore, leading some to believe there is a plot to damage the
state-run zoo’s reputation – although it is not clear why anyone would
want to do so.

An inquiry last year found foul play in injuries suffered by Meena, a
popular chimpanzee.

She died after an unsuccessful operation on her arm, which had been
crushed by a sliding door.

Two emus from Australia also died in suspicious circumstances.

Closed circuit television is among the measures planned by the zoo
authorities to monitor the movement of its feeding staff.

“Security is being revamped but I will not reveal the details,” said Mr

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS