This is an investigation report on the alleged entry and killing of 4 chinkaras by 2 stray dogs in New Delhi Zoological Gardens. Following the newspaper report in the Times of India, Kanishka Sharma, Himanshu Malhotra and Prof. Sonya Ghosh (hereinafter The Team) reached the Delhi zoo premises to do a preliminary investigation into the incident on 5th January 2012. The report is in 2 parts – Part 1 is a summary of the findings and the relevant law in place Part 2 is a detailed analysis and comparo with the information published by The Times of India [NB: Photo gallery at the bottom of the report]
- The Team met the Zoo Director Mr. Agnihotri and the Zoo veterinary officer Dr. Selvam and spoke to a few persons who had actually seen the two dogs present in the chinkara enclosure. The official version was that the elephant mahout, while walking an elephant in the morning, had seen crows in the enclosure and upon closer investigation he spotted the dogs and the carcasses of the deer. One of the dogs, black and tan in color, allegedly jumped over the boundary and escaped while the other, white in color, remained behind, was consequently tranquilized by one Mr. Paulose and chained and handed over to the MCD who placed him at the Friendicoes shelter at Defence Colony.
- When The Team spoke to the elephant mahout in question, he corroborated this version, even the color of the dogs, but when The Team requested him to point out the exact spot from where the dog jumped out and escaped, he was reluctant to do so. He said that he had to speak to ‘Pandeyji’ and Khan sahib’ before showing us the place. Ultimately, he refused to accompany us to the enclosure, which is within sight of the elephant enclosure.
- However, when Kanishka and I saw the dog at Friendicoes (on 06/01/2012) The Team were surprised to note that was not a white dog but a brownish dog quite docile and frightened. The Team then went to the zoo to procure a map of the Delhi zoo. Being a Friday, some office workers at the Zoo Director’s office told us a map was available at Dr. Selvam’s office.
- On the way to the hospital, The Team had occasion to examine the chinkara enclosure once again from all angles. Given the nature of its design, it is impossible for a dog which had allegedly gone inside, to jump out of it.
- At the hospital, The Team met Mr. Paulose who could not find us a map but confirmed that he had tranquilized a white dog ‘in the cage’ of the chinkara enclosure. The Team then told him that the dog handed over to Friendicoes was not white but brownish black.
- On 9th of January, Himanshu Malhotra and Sonya Ghosh met the zoo Director and also Mr. Pandey (In Charge, Security) and Dr. Mongol, Veterinary Officer officiating in place of Dr. Selvam (on leave). Prof. Sonya Ghosh was surprised at the vehemence with which Mr. Pandey denounced the presence of stray dogs in the city and the anger with which he threatened that he would not ‘leave’ any stray dog that he found in the zoo premises. In today’s version of the dog story, the colour of the dog had been changed and this time it was a brownish blackish dog that had been tranquilized while the white one ran away.
- Prof Sonya Ghosh briefed the Zoo Director about the ABC Rules and other Court Orders governing stray dogs and requested him to kindly desist from tranquilizing and dumping stray dogs and instead he should instruct his staff to call in the proper authorities. Himanshu and Prof Sonya told him that Friendicoes had extended all help and support in this respect. The Zoo Director agreed to this.
Summary of events:
- The many conflicting versions of the so called witnesses about the location and color and escape of the dog/s calls into question the veracity of the incident.
- Moreover, the bite marks as described by Dr. Selvam (on the scrotum) could not be discerned because of the autopsy incision down the midriff to the scrotum. The bite mark on the neck of one chinkara was more of a slit at an angle. Dog bites on animals that they hunt typically aim to tear out clumps of flesh, this was not visible on the chinkaras. Dogs also pull out the intestines from the anal area, The Team could not discern this, again, because of the autopsy incision.
- The reluctance of the prime witness, the elephant mahout, to show us the spot may be seen in the light of the fact that he is a temporary employee and Mr. Pandey is his boss.
- Mr. Pandey’s rage can be explained by the fact that he was once suspended by the Zoo authorities for alleged dereliction of duties.
- Please see this website of the CZAI http://cza.nic.in/ where a notification through The Gazette of India Extraordinary Part II, Section 3 Subsection (i) has been published on 11/11/2009 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, repeatedly places the responsibility for the safety of the animals in zoo enclosures on the Zoo authorities. Kindly see The Schedule [See Rule 10] 1. General Requirements, Para 4, which states that ‘ Every zoo, as a safeguard against the un-regulated access of visitors to the zoo and zoo animals being subjected to injury, pilferage and predation, shall design appropriately the barriers along the boundary of the zoo in accordance with the standards issued by the Central Zoo Authority in this regard.’ and Para 5: ‘Every zoo, which is surrounded by human landscape shall be encompassed by a perimeter wall of at least two meter in height from the ground level on both sides’ and Para 9: ‘ Every zoo shall refrain from housing of domestic animals and pets within the zoo premises and adequate safeguards shall also be put in place to prevent the entry of domestic livestock, stray animals and pets into the premises of the zoo’.
- Kindly also see Animal housing, display of animals and animal enclosures, Para 3: ‘ The zoo shall ensure that the enclosure is safe and secure for the animals, animal keepers and the visitors and has requisite space for free movement, exercise and expression of natural behavior by the animals,
- Please see 5. Upkeep and healthcare of animals, Para 4: ‘ As a safeguard against feral animals, free ranging wild animals and scavengers sharing the feed of the zoo animals, each animal shall be provided feed in the feeding cells/ kraals specially earmarked for the purpose …’
Given the precedence above, and upon admission of the Zoo authorities themselves that stray dogs were found in the zoo premises, it is clear that the Zoo authorities have committed a dereliction of duty in not safeguarding the boundaries or the enclosures of the Zoo and liability and action should be consequently determined.
The TOI columnist wrote that – “Chinkaras were bitten in the neck, head and shoulder”
(Please refer to picture series L1, L2 and L3) → You’ll notice there are no visible bite-marks on the carcass – in a dog-bite fatality; bite wounds are commonly found in sheer plurality on the neck, face and legs! These Chinkara carcasses have no tooth-marks on their dorso-lumbar section, absolutely no Cranio-facial injuries and likewise their forelegs and hind legs do not exhibit any observable cuts or puncture craters, fairly establishing that these Gazelles weren’t chewed to death as rumored!
TOI reported – “enclosure has wire meshing and a dry moat surrounding it. The dogs could have climbed into the moat and jumped over the wire mesh”.
That’s unfeasible as the screens of wire-mesh are mounted atop twelve-foot fortification walls that “NO” dog can leap! The perimeter is simply impenetrable, with a wrought iron railing reinforced by thorny shrubs, enveloped along a thick twelve-foot concrete wall that pillars woven wire-mesh further encircled by a broad ditch moat! (Please refer to picture series L6, L7, L8, L9, L10, L13 and L19)
Contrastingly, a gazelle can leap up to 30 feet per stride and jump as high as 10 feet – YET the enclosure is sufficiently palisaded to restrain them . . . implying that even an acrobatically gifted dog couldn’t have achieved this feat and flown over the fence as alleged!
To make matters more chaotic, The Team found the circumferential fencing around the enclosure securely intact, thereby any “dog intrusion” theory through a crevice is wholly negated. In like manner the service passageway was also locked, (refer to images L21, L22 and L24). This convincingly proves that no point of entry was available for the Stray Dogs to exploit!
Unexplained discrepancies in eyewitness testimonies
The Elephant stockade is adjacent to the Chinkara enclosure, so the first personnel to arrive at the crime scene was an Assamese mahout (elephant keeper), who upon being interviewed by Prof. Sonya Ghosh narrated, that on the fateful day, around 7 am he strolled across the road and sighted TWO stray dogs on the grassy expanse lounging besides the Chinkara carcasses. He “confirmed” that the dogs and the cadavers were found on the vegetal stretch of the enclosure [NOT INSIDE the roosting-shelter!] (refer to image L36)
Contradictory to mahout’s version, the Para-Vet who shot the “culprit dog” with a tranquilizer gun told Prof. Sonya Ghosh that both stray dogs were inside the brick-shed and close-at-hand were the carcasses strewn over the cement flooring! (refer to image L14 and L15)
The Mahout and the Para-Vet are not on the same page when it comes to identifying the crime scene, in course of an investigation this is bound to raise eyebrows.
The Mahout while recapitulating the events said – he saw TWO stray dogs on the hayfield (One Tan-brown, while the other was all white), and instantaneously raised an alarm – startled by the commotion the TAN BROWN dog leapt over the barricading comprising of moat, wall, fence, shrubs and railing . . . clearing all the barriers at one go! If the Mahout is to be believed then in one giant unimaginable leap the dog sprang out of the enclosure and vanished into the morning mist, whereas the white dog crouched towards the carcasses making no attempts to flee and was effortlessly rounded up.
But the recountal set forth by the Para-Vet was diametrically opposed to Mahout’s recital. Para-Vet categorically told Prof. Sonya Ghosh that the two dogs (one brown male and his jet-black accomplice) were found INSIDE the lodging crib, the black dog escaped from his pursuers by taking the aerial route to freedom, but the brown dog amid fierce resistance was cornered and subdued with a dart gun.
In our opinion, these irreconcilable contradictions and lack of factual evidence denote foul play. We earnestly wonder why there are two versions of an event. Is mahout doling out a concocted story or is the Para-Vet misleading us? Can a dog jump over a fence that is designed to contain gazelles? – These are some unreciprocated questions!
Motive for onslaught unperceived
If the stray dogs ventured into the enclosure craving for flesh; in bestial sense driven by hunger – then what prevented them from eating the Chinkara carcasses? A hungry carnivore would find venison irresistible, in spite of that, the autopsy confirms that the cadavers were not nibbled or masticated upon.
Furthermore, if the stray dogs wanted to snack out then there were delectable alternatives available with much less pain and peril. (refer to image L37) the duck pond in close vicinity of the Chinkara enclosure has no fencing or boundary wall, it holds a good population of waterfowl and is easily accessible for predation. So why the famished stray dogs would overlook an easy food source and take upon the arduous task of hunting gazelles? Stray dogs are opportunistic feeders and not diligent hunters.
When hunting Gazelles, even a seasoned Cheetah has an average success rate of 50% – so can The Team assume that TWO naïve stray dogs, who had never seen a Chinkara in their lifetime, managed to slay four of them within two hours? Such brutal efficiency is unheard of even in apex predators! And why did the dogs not consume their heavy labored kill?
When we Kanishka confronted the Veterinary Officer with the foretasted facts on predatism, he obscurely remarked that the “stray dogs might have killed the Chinkaras for thrill, and conjointly propounded that the Chinkars might have died of shock instead of dog-bite! He also emphasized that Gazelles in captivity are extremely vulnerable and easy victims!”
Gazelles have razor sharp horns that can rip open their assailant as they’re specialized for stabbing, it would simply demand unrivaled skill to dodge those antlers that I doubt a novice dog would possess. Intriguingly the causalities include FOUR Chinkaras (among them was a Doe and her fawn), so in conjunction with the survival instincts, one reckons that maternal instincts would also be summoned leading to an obstinate resistance.
Irrespective of all this, the DOG came out unhurt rather unscathed from this fracas! (refer to image L30, L31 and L32) No gashes, no scars, not even a tiny blood spot on its coat. Notably the absence of Chinkara blood on DOG’s forepaw and oral membrane adds to bewilderment.
If the Chinkaras succumbed to trauma instead of mortal wounds (as hinted by the Veterinary Officer) then why were the journalists misinformed and the dogs insidiously vilified?
The convicted dog is not a savage rabid hound but a petrified meek mongrel
The Team was made aware that the said ‘killer dog’ was tranquilized and detained – in custody & it was kept heavily sedated, (i.e.-each time he’d be minimally conscious, they’d anesthetize him all over again. It is criminally insane to over-medicate an already constrained dog. On top of that, the lower staff at the zoo informed Prof. Sonya Ghosh that the tranquilizer-guns are used at will rather indiscriminately to render stray dogs inactive in a brazen violation of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The incarcerated dog at Friendicoes is not a domineering alpha-dog manifesting outward aggression such as insistent growling, snarling and lunging – but is small dog with slumped shoulders, curled up like a ball, crumpling onto the floor and nervously sagging around – this dog was flinching at noise or touch, was trembling in fear and sharing his cage with 2 other stray dogs. (Please refer to picture series L33 and L35)
A gazelle hunting dog would never share his vault with two other strays, per contra. This dog was lying on his back, head lowered, tail tucked between legs, scared stiff – smack in the middle of two other dogs!
All evidence point to the dogs being unduly framed and accused; they’re being made a convenient scapegoat to cloak the negligence and maladministration of the zoo officials due to which 4 endangered Chinkaras have lost their lives. Unfortunately, in place of suspending its negligent staffers the Delhi zoo has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy towards the lowly strays – they’re coercing NGO’s to seize every single dog in and around Delhi Zoo, and are further drafting scathing letters to neighboring RWA’s demanding them to prohibit feeding of street dogs within their purview.
The Team has further suggested to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI):
Request the post mortem reports of the 4 chinkaras allegedly killed by dogs and get it examined by a third party.
Request the Zoo authorities to provide the service record of the Security Staff at the zoo.
Form a team to examine the 5 km boundary team and independently identify the vulnerable spots / gaps.
Study the Rules governing zoos as displayed on the website given above, and carry out a further investigation on whether the Guidelines are indeed being followed.