Pangolins Unlawfully Held Captive In Nandankanan Zoo

Bhubaneswar: The endangered pangolin conservation initiative on part of Nandankanan zoo authorities has come under cloud with conservationists questioning illegal confinement of the animals by the zoo keepers.

In 2009, Nandan Kanan Zoo had launched Pangolin conservation breeding programme. The Central Zoo Authority had accorded approval to the project with an objective of ex-situ breeding followed by the release into the wild. The objective of the conservation initiative was to conserve the genetic diversity of the species and restock or reintroduce the species to re-establish self sustaining population in its natural wild habitat.

However it is appalling to note that not a single pangolin bred in captivity has been released so far in last 11 years though 7 pangolins were born in the conservation breeding centre. The Zoo has already spent Rs.45,70, 000 on their upkeep and feed but has failed to achieve the stated objective of releasing them into the wild, alleged Wildlife Society of Orissa, Secretary, Biswait Mohanty in a letter addressed to Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

This sort of act amounts to illegal captivity of wild pangolins by the Nandankanan zoo officials. Currently the zoo has a total stock of 23 pangolins, he said.

Since November 9, 2007, the Zoo has received 24 pangolins including 2 babies. Except for one pangolin from the Vishkanpatnam, all the rest 23 pangolins were either seized or rescued from the wild in various parts of Odisha.

All these 23 pangolins were supposed to be released into the wild after check up. However, this has not been done. The Zoo has illegally confined the endangered animals, he alleged.

Since there has not be a single release of a pangolin born in the breeding centre over the last 11 years, there is an urgent need to reassess the need for continuing this Pangolin Conservation breeding program as it has failed to achieve its stated purpose despite expenditure of nearly Rs.46 lakhs of public funds.

No zoo can collect specimens of protected species from the wild as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972. Such an act of keeping in captivity amounts to hunting as these specimens were caught in the wild by poachers and subsequently moved to the Zoo. Instead of releasing them into their type habitat, the zoo has continued to cage them in violation of the wildlife laws. Every wild animal has a right to live in the wild and not be confined to cramped cages inside a zoo which affects their movement and breeding, Mohanty’s letter stated seeking CZA’s intervention in the matter.