[Edit Note: What’s it about stray dog hunting down deer in zoo’s? They don’t pick on any other small animal or birds in a zoo – and dogs that are not used to hunting and are scavengers are best in the Indian urban environment – turn blood thirsty killers. They who don’t just kill to eat but commit mass murder – far greater than their capacity to consume.
From New Delhi to Mysore to Kanpur newspaper stories are full of how dogs entered the zoo and committed this carnage! No-one bothers to check what could have actually happened and is the Indian Stray Dog rightly taking the rap for these killings – or is it convenient to put the blame on them to cover up for the mostly criminally inept administration of most Indian zoos?
Last year the killing of chinkara’s in New Delhi had led to a very detailed and credible investigation by Kanishka Sharma, Himanshu Malhotra and Sonya Ghosh that pointed to how the dogs not have killed the chinkara’s. Now Kamna Pandey investigates the said killing of 31 blackbuck in the Kanpur Zoo on the night of 19th and 20th January 2013.
Those who know Kamna Pandey know her this feisty fearless crusader who’s not been afraid to stand up and confront that came between her and an animal in need – a fact that is reflected here that the zoo authorities informed her that such an incident had taken place. This investigation, writing & pictures are by Kamna Pandey.]
1900hrs on 20th Jan – 1st report received
‘Two dogs have hunted down 31 blackbucks. Hunting went on for entire night. Morning they discovered the dogs found eating them. The dogs have been caught. Wildlife warden had already visited and convinced that dogs did it.’
2045hrs on 20th Jan – I reached the zoo.
Facts that surfaced during the talk with Mr Pravin Rao (the Director of Kanpur Zoo):
- The incident was discovered on the night of 19/20 January 2013.
- Postmortem was done on the same night i.e night of 19/20 Jan
- 2 dogs were shot down inside enclosure. 1 was hunted down in morning when zoo was combed for rest of the dogs.
- According to Mr Pravin Rao he had gone to the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad but had not taken any leave(picture in his mobile which he showed Kamna Pandey)
- When he was informed around 1300-1330 hrs he started from there immediately.
- He blamed the Chief Wildlife Warden Mr Rupak De (message still on his mobile). “There is an urgent situation. Please call Kamna Pandey”(at around 2:30). No reply. He send a Blackberry message again at 0638 informing that 31 blackbucks have been killed by 2 dogs. A post mortem had been conducted and carcasses buried. Again, no reply.
- Mr Pravin Rao said “ The guards found out sometime in the night. They saw the dogs hunting the bucks and the bucks running in panic. One guard ran to inform Dr R.K.Singh (vet) who came immediately. Snatched the guard’s gun and shot the two dogs down in just two shots. Because more dogs were there and had escaped, we started search operation in which we found one more dog and guess what, we shot him down too”.
This is the actual conversation that I had at that time with Mr Praveen Rao, the then Director of the Kanpur zoo.
Kamna Pandey: “Why was a tranquilizing gun not used?”
Pravin Rao: “No. No tranquilizing gun. Just shoot. They killed my 31 black bucks. We killed them. If there are more dogs found inside zoo even now, we will kill them also.”
Kamna Pandey: “How did the dogs come inside the zoo?”
Pravin Rao:” I do not know. Probably through an opening in the wall near the black buck enclosure. It is being repaired.”
Kamna Pandey:”Oh the outer wall is broken? And is there any breach in the inner enclosure too? Is the inner fence broken?”
Pravin Rao: ”No No. Everything is not broken. The inner fence is good.”
Kamna Pandey: “Ok. But then any idea how the dogs might have entered?”
Pravin Rao: ”God only knows. Anything could have happened. These are dogs. They can go anywhere. They could have jumped in.”
Thereafter, though Mr Pravin Rao didn’t let me in that time, I managed to get in and inspected the enclosure. I walked along the entire boundary and looked closely for any signs of breach in the inner boundary (wire mesh) of the buck enclosure. There were no signs of the fence being broken or freshly repaired or any such thing.
I tried to figure out how dogs could have entered, but there was no place. The front is lined with thin, closely placed pointed rods. Then there is angled fence (bending towards the enclosure) from the road side. The sides are both covered by a high wire mesh boundary. No signs of breach anywhere.
1925 hrs on Jan 21, 2013
I went and took an account of the incident and the statement of the Chief Wildlife Warden Mr. Rupak De. [Mr. K. Thomas ,the now director of the Kanpur zoo, was also present but he had joined just a few hours back and had no information to give. In fact, he was learning of facts as they were being talked about]
Kamna Pandey: “Sir, what in your understanding had happened on the night of 19th & 20th Jan 2013?”
Rupak De: “Obviously (a) breach happened (at the fence). Stray dogs entered from the breach in the outer peripheral wall. That wall was under construction to repair it before the incident took place. Everyday when the laborers wind up for the day, they just place bricks one on top of another, to cover up the opening. That day, obviously, some lapse must have happened. They placed bricks loosely or whatever. The dogs managed to enter from there. “
Kamna Pandey: “How far is this breach from enclosure?”
Rupak De: “70-80 meters (80 yards/ 200 feet).”
Kamna Pandey: “OK. So the dogs managed to enter the zoo through the breach. How did they manage to enter the buck’s enclosure. That must be having a single or single or double fencing around it?”
Rupak De: “The enclosure has a single fencing. There was a place where the dogs could have entered from.”
Kamna Pandey: “Oh! You mean to say there was a breach in the enclosure fencing also. Were any pictures taken of the breach? Is it still there? Did you see it?”
Rupak De: “No. Why would pictures be taken. I have seen the breach myself and it has been mended. The dogs could also have jumped in.”
Kamna Pandey: “So the dogs managed to enter the enclosure. Then what happened?”
Rupak De: “The dogs entered and attacked the bucks. If you know anything about blackbuck behavior, you will know that it’s a very sensitive animal. It gets scared very easily. Even when our vets enter they start running in panic and hurt themselves. So here also the bucks started in panic and jumped and hit themselves to death. The two dogs that were found in the enclosure were shot on spot. Another dog was found in campus. He was also shot down. Zoos are no-dog zone. So we shot them down.”
Kamna Pandey: “Sir, when was the case discovered first and by who?”
Rupak De: “That this has happened was discovered by a guard at 0030 on AM on January 20, 2013.”
Kamna Pandey: “Who was informed immediately after the guard learnt of the happening?”
Rupak De: “He ran to the vet. The vet must have informed the Director.”
Kamna Pandey: ”When were you informed of the incident?”
Rupak De: “The Director informed Kamna Pandey on the 20th around 1000.”
Kamna Pandey: “When you came here to Kanpur, did you see carcasses?”
Rupak De: ”No. But I saw pictures. The carcasses were already buried before I came.”
Kamna Pandey: ”Sir, who gave orders for shooting?”
Rupak De: “The decision to kill was taken by the people present at the scene. You will have to ask concerned people. “
Kamna Pandey: ”Sir, are you aware of it that killing of dog is banned by law?”
Rupak De: ”I do not care. Zoos are no dog zone. If I find 20 dogs, I will shoot all 20 down. Dogs have no business being in the zoo. If they are found in campus, they will be shot. Will AWBI take responsibility if the dogs spread rabies among animals in my zoo?”
Kamna Pandey: “Was tranquilizing gun there in zoo premises that night? Was it in working condition?”
Rupak De: “Yes tranquilizing gun was there. Condition I don’t know. You will have to ask concerned people. In Lucknow our gun is 16 years old. Ask AWBI to help us get clearance for obtaining new one. We have donors but no permission.”
SECOND POST MORTEM: 0900 on 21 Jan 2013: Second Post Mortem starts. Continues till 1700 on 22 Jan 2013
- Black buck # 1 to # 6: No bite marks. A few lacerations. Conclusion: Died of shock. No head injury.
- Black Buck # 7: Hind leg inner thigh single side puncture wound. Could be bite mark. But no mark on the opposite side i.e. outer thigh for the dogs jaw to close. Conclusion: unlikely to be bite mark on a live animal
- Male Dog # 1: Clean claws nails. Shorter than street dogs. Long Bushy, Furry tail, Little black near nuzzle. Left side 8th rub fractured. Outer gunshot wound around 2 mm. Stomach had hair and little flesh.
Kamna Pandey: “Is it possible to find out if he ate dead or live deer?”
Dr A.K. Sharma: “Can’t say if he ate a dead deer or a live one. Flesh has gone only till a certain length in his small intestines. So, either he was shot while eating or just after eating”.
- Dog #2 (female): Physical description-brown, long coat, bushy tail, white mark on chest running down front legs full muzzle dark. White mark from neck to chest running down only on the front side of front legs. Clean claws. Pellet trajectory – Front of chest diagonal entry fracturing (hair and flesh found in stomach). 7th rib broken. No outer puncture in skin. No wound.
Kamna Pandey: “ Can it be definitely said its bullet wound?”
Dr A.K. Sharma: “No. The wound is not definitive for bullet wound.”
- Deer # 17: Puncture marks and head injury possibly hit but no fracture.
Kamna Pandey: “Did the head injury kill the blackbuck”
Dr A.K. Sharma: “No. (The injury) Not hit hard enough to kill. Outer skin not broken.”
- Dog # 3 (Male): This one was most reluctantly dug out from a spot far from the burial place of rest. He was the one apparently hunted down in morning. Many pellets found embedded. Hair and flesh found in stomach to the same length of intestines as was there in Dog # 1 & Dog # 2 (other two dogs). A bone also found in the stomach. Intestines also had 3 pellets along with hair and flesh and a bone.
Kamna Pandey: “So this one was also shot down right after eating?”
Dr A.K. Sharma: “Yes; All of them. Ate and got shot.”
Kamna Pandey: “Is it possible that the flesh this dog ate had these pellets embedded in it?”
Dr A.K. Sharma: “Yes. But we can’t say. The pellets are found in the intestine along with flesh and hair. It could have come from the flesh or it could have come from shots fired on him which got stuck in his intestines.”
- Blackbuck # 7: A puncture wound which the doctors initially thought was a bite mark was observed. It was pointed out that it was too narrow/thin/sharp and too deep for canine bite mark, and there was no mark on the opposite side (unlike snakes, dogs need to close their jaws to exert bite force).
Kamna Pandey: “Is there a possibility that the puncture wound could be due to pellet from gunshot? “
Dr A.K. Sharma: “Yes it seems to quite narrow for canine bite mark. Can’t say definitely, but it could have come from pellets from gunshots.”
General Observation of the situation:
- After the postmortem the blackbuck’s bodies were buried in shallow graves and had been dug out. They were buried merely 2-3 feet in the ground and covered with soft earth. Any dog could have dug out bodies.
- The organs of ALL BLACKBUCKS were intact after the first Postmortem. None of the organs had been operated for analysis during the first autopsy.
- There was a big slit made on the chest and stomach. Rest of the skin (ALL OF 31 bucks) was intact.
- How did the doctors arrive at any cause of death in the first Postmortem when neither any organ (heart, stomach, intestines, legs) were not cut up and analyzed. All of it was done later in the second Postmortem.
- There are around 400-500 free – roaming spotted deer (according to Mr. Rupak De). “There are just too many of them. What do we do with them?”
- On questioning of Class IV employees, guards, laborers it was learnt that they were possibly drinking – a fact that the employees accepted.
January 23, 2013
Two more bodies of deer were found near the crocodile enclosure. How did they die? Were they reported? To whom? What action was taken?
From the investigation these inconsistencies and discrepancies can be taken note of:
- There are hundreds of spotted deer freely roaming throughout the zoo campus. As per the theory propounded by zoo officials, the dogs have been coming and feeding on the spotted deer lately. Then why did the dogs on the night of 19/20 Jan, choose to leave their usual prey, available in abundance, and which also is a known softer target as compared to blackbucks, and hunt down blackbuck for which they had to enter a fenced enclosure?
- On the night of the deaths, why was the PM done and more importantly carcasses buried during the night itself and against all odds. It was freezing cold. No lights other than torch lights. No availability of water for PM. Few laborers to carry carcasses (31+3) to PM room dig ground for burial. And the whole thing is wrapped up before the break of daylight. On the other hand, for the 2nd PM, lights water tanker, more than a dozen laborers, campfires for warmth had to be arranged, arrangements which are seemingly impossible to do at 2-3 am in the freezing cold winter night of the tragedy.
- Taking this point further, why were the carcasses buried without the Chief Wildlife Warden’s inspection, which certainly would have been next morning? Especially considering that it is well known that if bodies are not inspected, the first doubts raised are whether its precious parts like meat, skin, horns etc are sold. Here, the risk of secret burial was taken. What was a bigger risk than getting accused of foul play? What was there to hide?
- Whose shooting prowess was so much that he could shoot and take down two animals in just two shots, in such adverse conditions:
- the dark night, without adequate light or night-vision equipment,
- in such biting cold where fingers become numb making aiming difficult
- when there is fog
- and the targets were moving , in an enclosure where there were fleeing and panicked endangered , Schedule 1 animals.
- Can the guard demonstrate his shooting prowess once more before experts? I have spoken to some professional shooters. They say it was very difficult for even an ace-shooter to overcome the conditions that night for this perfect a shooting.
- How could shooting be ordered in the enclosure of Schedule-I animal? Each shot was endangering the animal not only for a direct bullet hit, but also for cardiac arrest due to sound (knowing well how sensitive the animal is). At least 4 survivor bucks and 3 bucks which are told to have died later were still alive and present in the enclosure during the shooting of the dogs.
- How did the dogs enter the enclosure without a breach? How did one manage to come out?
- How did the officials know for sure that there were more dogs? Did anyone see? If the guard saw them in enclosure, he must have seen their escape route also. They need to be questioned on this point.
- If the black bucks died of panic due to presence of dogs, then how did the 4 surviving bucks survive? What made their panic come down even when the dogs were still eating and hunting?
- What exactly caused the shock that the bucks died of ?
- The first instinct of a buck on seeing a predator is to run as fast as it can. The bucks are known to die of shock when predator starts tearing in its flesh. Most carcasses did not bear bite or torn flesh marks. Why did they die of shock?
- The same animal will however freeze on experiencing something unnatural like headlights or loud sounds. Bucks have died in large number due to loud unfamiliar sound. In Rajasthan 75-100 blackbuck died due to unusually heavy thunderstorm. The possibility of shock death of the black bucks due to gunshot sound is very high.
- When a blackbuck panics, it runs and hits its head against the fencing. However, none of the blackbucks had head injury (one had a mirror clot but according to the doctors , the impact that caused this clot was not severe enough to cause fracture or death)
- According to official version one dog escaped and was killed in morning and other two were killed while they were hunting/ feeding on blackbuck during the night itself. Then how come, at PM – 2 food was found to have moved down the same length of intestines, suggesting death of dogs approx same time interval of ingesting food? In the case of the 3rd dog, since he had the entire night to digest the food, it should have moved further down in the intestine.
- The 3rd dog’s body was dug out of site from the site it was shot down at, far away from PM room. His stomach was slit showing that his PM was also done. Does it mean he was brought to the PM room, dissected and then taken back to the site of the shooting for burial instead of burying him along with the rest?
- Why did a senior officer of the rank of Chief Wildlife Warden, Mr. Rupak De, allow his suspended Director (zoo), Mr. Pravin Rao, to be present during the entire second post mortem, even inside the PM room?
- The director, Mr. Pravin Rao, was in Allahabad (without sanctioned leave) . Was his absence used for carrying out a plan which went terribly wrong?
- Benign lapse or intentional neglect. The 1st Postmortem was shoddy. One could not help noticing that other than for lacerations and puncture marks on some of the bucks, extra care seems to have been taken to keep the skin intact. All bodies were slit from chest, incidentally the same place where slit is made to desk-in them. No organ was operated to study for analysis. Also to keep in mind that 2nd PM of the same number of bodies, took 8-9 hours while the 1st PM apparently was wound up in less than 2 hours. No slits made in hind legs to confirm death from shock.