The 11 zebras that died in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park in Gazipur in recent times suffered high levels of nitrate poisoning in the grass and bacterial infections.
The stomachs of three of 11 dead zebras were cut with a sharp knife to hide the cause of their deaths.
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin at a press briefing at his office on Wednesday (February 23) said that the probe committee, formed over the zebras’ deaths, confirmed that hazardous effects of excess nitrate on the grass associated with mixed bacterial infections contributed to the death of the zebras.
Based on the recommendation submitted by the probe committee, the ministry has decided to file a criminal case against the officers and employees responsible for the death of zebras at the safari park, said the minister.
Additionally, departmental action will also be taken in this regard. The ministry also decided to implement the 24 recommendations, made by the probe committee, in phases.
Md Shahab Uddin said that usually urea fertilizer is given to mix with the grass. Death of any animal can happen if the animal is fed immediately after spraying. There is a time to give the fertilizer. If the grass is given after three, four, or six weeks, the animal is not infected. It can be given in a week or two, he added.
Read More: Animal deaths at safari park
He said that the negligence of all the officials involved in the zebra rearing was found in the investigation. The probe report said that a thorough investigation is needed to find out who had cut the stomachs of the three dead zebras.
However, the minister did not give any specific number of responsible officers and employees.
Md Shahab Uddin said that in spite of the provision that the officer-in-charge would convene a meeting of the Safari Park Medical Board as per the demand of the on-duty veterinary officer, no emergency medical board meeting was convened after the death of zebras.
This is a testament to irresponsibility. Although there is a practice of making GD in case of unnatural death of an animal, no GD has been made in this case, which is mysterious, he added.
He said, “The secretary of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry visited the safari park on January 22. Although eight zebras have died so far, the project director, the officer-in-charge, the veterinary officer, or anyone else did not inform the secretary about the deaths of the zebras.
It appears that attempts were made to cover up the death from the very beginning. The issue is unusual, unacceptable and not conducive to the conduct of government employees, which is tantamount to negligence.
The ministry on January 26 formed the five-member probe committee led by Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, an additional secretary of the ministry, to unearth the actual reason for the death of the zebras. A medical board was also formed to find the cause of the death of the animals.
Md Shahab Uddin said that the probe committee has made 24 recommendations for the development of the safari park. Eleven of them are short-term, four medium-term and nine long-term recommendations. These will be implemented in phases.
Earlier, Dr Md Abu Hadi Noor Ali Khan, a professor of Pathology Department under Faculty of Veterinary Science at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and a member of the medical board, said that the samples of the zebras were tested at the university’s Pathology, Pharmacology and Toxicology departments.
He said that traces of excess nitrate were found in the samples from the deceased animals. Later, the animals were also infected with secondary bacteria, which accelerated the poisoning in their body causing pneumonia, resulting in the rapid deaths of the zebras.
The 11 Zebras died between January 2 and 29 this year one after another at Bangabandhu Safari Park. A tiger also died on January 12. A lioness also died there. The ministry suspended some of the safari park officers over the allegations of negligence of duty.