Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Zoo had to borrow oxygen cylinder from hospital as penguin gasped for breath

Mumbai Mirror has exposed major irregularities in the penguin project, after Dory’s death
Not only is Byculla zoo unfit to handle exotic animals, it does not even have basic emergency facilities; zoo had to borrow life-saving machines from Balaji hospital when Dory the penguin was struggling for life, but by then it was too late.

The death of a penguin last month has brought the spotlight firmly back on the poor infrastructure at Byculla zoo. Not only is it ill-equipped to handle foreign, exotic animals, it does not even have the basic infrastructure to tackle any emergency. Mumbai Mirror has found that the zoo does not even have a single oxygen cylinder – a fact that came to light after Dory the penguin died.

On October 22, when the one-anda-half year-old penguin was having trouble breathing and needed oxygen, zoo director Dr Sanjay Tripathi had to borrow an oxygen cylinder from the nearby Balaji Hospital. Zoo authorities have now kept the cylinder as stand-by in case of other emergencies. Dr Ramesh Kagzi, CEO of Balaji Hospital, confirmed that the hospital had provided an oxygen cylinder to the zoo for the penguin’s treatment. The hospital also sent an oxygen mask, pulse oxymetre, oxygen tubing, oxygen analyser and oxygen humidifiers, as the zoo did not have any of these lifesaving equipment.

A source from the zoo said that even though Dory was suffering from laboured breathing from October 18, the zoo authorities took four days to arrange for the oxygen cylinder, and only got one around 5 pm on October 22. It proved to be too late as Dory died at 8.15 am on October 23.

“There is no emergency treatment room in the current quarantine area, there is no emergency equipment, apart from a nebuliser,” the source added.

Denying any lapses or delay in Dory’s treatment, Dr Tripathi, told Mirror, “It is true that we don’t have an emergency room for penguins, but we do have a sick room in the quarantine area.” He also dismissed allegations of delay in getting the oxygen cylinder, saying, “We initially put her on nebuliser, as oxygen cylinder was not required at that time. When her condition deteriorated, we immediately borrowed one from Balaji. We did not waste a single minute in Dory’s treatment.”

The zoo director added that there were plans for a “proper, emergency ICU” for the penguins, but that will only happen when the penguin exhibit is ready. Incidentally, the eight Humboldt penguins were brought to Mumbai three months ago, on July 26.

Anand Siva, an animal activist, who is protesting the penguin project, “I don’t understand the logic behind bringing penguins to Byculla zoo. Forget penguins, the zoo is not suitable for any animal. So many animal have died in the past due to lack of medical infrastructure.”

Slamming the penguin project, Siva added, “BMC spent around Rs 20 crore to bring the penguins here, but they don’t even have a treatment facility for them. Penguins required isolated emergency care.”

Just a few months to go for the BMC elections, the death has expectedly taken on political overtones. Pravin Chheda, Congress’s group leader in the BMC, said “I don’t understand why BMC was in such a hurry to bring penguins to the zoo. There is no expert, no proper infrastructure, no facilities for exotic animals. The chillers, which maintain the air and water temperature in the quarantine, was brought to the facility in September, two months after the penguins landed in the city.”

Emphasising the importance of having life-saving oxygen machines in any zoo or animal hospital, Retd Lt Col (Dr) J C Khanna, superintendent of Parel Animal Hospital, told Mirror, “Oxygen is the basic life support equipment which has to be there on stand-by for emergency care. In such cases, you cannot run around asking for oxygen machine.”

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