The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has recommended starting a capacity-development programme for Delhi zoo’s ‘very demotivated’ animal keepers and roping in more interns and volunteers for assistance, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The CZA has also recommended sending the animal keepers to other zoos to learn best practices.
“A lot is happening in the zoo and the situation doesn’t inspire confidence. The animal keepers are feeling very demotivated. There’s an urgent need to organise a capacity-development programme for them every three months.
“Instructions have been issued in this regard. The programme will feature the best practices of zoos across the country,” CZA Member-Secretary S P Yadav said.
He said the CZA has also recommended sending Delhi zoo’s animal keepers to other zoos, which will rejuvenate them and help them acquire new skills. The CZA has asked the zoo administration to rope in more volunteers and interns for help.
“Anyone who loves and cares for wildlife can apply to become a volunteer.
For internship, applicants should be students of veterinary colleges and have some background knowledge,” Yadav said.
“It will be an unpaid internship programme, but the zoo will provide accommodation to the interns,” Yadav said.
A Delhi zoo official, however, said there’s a severe shortage of staff in the zoo and volunteers and interns cannot make up for it.
“Earlier, the animal section had around 80 employees. Now less than 30, including attendants and gangmen, are left. One cannot expect volunteers and interns to do the work of regular staff,” the official said.
The overall staff strength has come down from 350 to 80. There are only 20 animal keepers left in the zoo, the official claimed.
The zoo has been in the headlines recently over a large number of animal deaths and allegations of irregularities by staff.
According to a recently conducted census, the Delhi zoo recorded 245 deaths from April 2018 to June 2019 - the second-highest mortality figure in five years.
In August, the zoo’s last cape buffalo died after eating plastic, prompting the authorities to order a probe into the incident.
The zoo has lost around 10 species of animals, including chinkara, cassowary and ostrich, and 27 animal species do not have a mating partner.